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Convention N° 189

Landmark treaty for domestic workers to come into force

The ILO’s Convention on Domestic Workers has now been ratified by two countries, meaning it will come into effect in a year’s time. The Convention extends basic labour rights to tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide.

News | 05 September 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – The Philippines has become the second country to ratify the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, thus allowing the first global standard for domestic workers to come into force in twelve months’ time.

“Today’s ratification by the Philippines sends a powerful signal to the millions of domestic workers who will be protected when the Convention comes into force. I hope it will also send a signal to other member States and that we will soon see more and more countries committing to protect the rights of domestic workers,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia.

The historic Convention extends the ILO standards to a sector which continues to be poorly regulated and remains largely part of the informal economy.

Convention 189
Domestic workers who care for families and households must have the same basic labour rights as other workers. These rights include:
  • Reasonable working hours,
  • Weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours,
  • A limit on in-kind payment,
  • Clear information on terms and conditions of employment,
  • Respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses in 117 countries place the global number of domestic workers at around 53 million. But since this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered, experts believe that the total number could be as high as 100 million.

In developing countries, domestic workers make up at least 4 to 12 per cent of wage employment. Around 83 per cent of these workers are women or girls, and many are migrant workers. Globally, domestic workers make up 3.6 per cent of wage employment.

The new standard covers all domestic workers and provides for special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks.

Uruguay was the first country to ratify C189, on 14 June 2012.

The Convention is an international treaty that is binding on Member States that ratify it, while the accompanying Recommendation provides more detailed guidance on how to apply the Convention.
Watch ILO video report on the new domestic workers treaty
Once excluded from labour laws, thousands of domestic workers will now enjoy the same protections as any other workers. In this short documentary, two Filipino maids express their hopes that their working conditions will now improve.