Workers' Rights in a Global Economy

Does ILO matter in our country


"Domestic workers are workers employed by private households within national boundaries or overseas to do house chores and care work," UN WOMEN (2011). ILO data records that about 10% of the labour force in developing countries and 2% of the labour force in developed countries constitutes of domestic workers.

Domestic Workers Convention of 2011, NO. 189 is a convention concerning decent work for domestic Workers. According to ILO for the purpose of the convention domestic worker:
a) means any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship;
(b) a person who performs domestic work only occasionally or sporadically and not on an occupational basis is not a domestic worker.

Although domestic work contributes to renewing and sustaining life and is critically linked to social and economic development, it is not regulated in many contexts. This is because it is invisible and conducted within the private space of the home – not defined as a “workplace”. The lack of regulation of this sector devalue the economic and social contribution of domestic work to development, it exacerbates abuse and exploitation of workers. This includes: contract substitution, poor wages, non-payment or delayed payment of wages, very long hours of work, no break periods or rest days, restrictions on freedom of movement and association, no access to collective bargaining, inadequate food and accommodation, including lack of privacy, sexual and gender-based violence.

One would wonder why choose domestic workers convention; it is of interest to me because it encompasses women mostly , somehow children become a matter involved under child labour or just children fending for themselves due to being orphans or not having parents taking care of them. Zimbabwe coming out of colonialism in 1980 there were many indifferences in terms of work conditions, benefits and rights which continued through independence and after gaining its independency. Many work forces or labourers were classed as domestic workers who worked under harsh conditions which still remain deplorable in some situations. For a long time in our country of Zimbabwe, there has been human rights abuse; since the inception of independence which most of the population deemed would bring fair and just values as well as dignity to the people. To begin to explain the extent of abuse is cumbersome but looking at workers’ rights; freedom of association of organizations and labour exploitation, our nation still needs further intervention from the ILO and other conferences as well as committees.
Is Zimbabwe ratified to this convention? According to an article of September 2013, the writer spoke of Zimbabwe Parliament wanting to ratify to the convention in the meetings to be held a couple days later, (Manzongo, 2013). It spoke of the benefits of Zimbabwe ratifying to the convention and how it would become binding to the international standards. Zimbabwe ratifying to the convention meant a consensus of the minimum wages or salary to the domestic workers and in addition improved working conditions; working hours and defined terms and conditions of employment. As recorded in the NATLEX database, Zimbabwe is not ratified the convention. This would have been a great ILS to abide by and hence there is need for referring to this context of work. Not everyone understands the nature of the work of domestic workers, the growth of the sector and how they influence the social and economic development. In addition there is no clear information on terms and conditions of employment as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights including a) freedom of association b) right to collective bargaining and basic labour rights as those available to other workers.
Problems faced by domestic workers are as follows:
• Human rights abuse
• Labour exploitation
• Deplorable working conditions.
The convention and recommendation are a catalyst for change. They serve as a point for devising new policies as well ability of recognizing the dignity and value of domestic workers. The general conference of ILO having met in 2011 and “recognizing the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy, which includes increasing paid job opportunities for women and men workers with family responsibilities, greater scope for caring for ageing populations, children and persons with a disability, and substantial income transfers within and between countries, and

Considering that domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and of work, and to other abuses of human rights, and

Considering also that in developing countries with historically scarce opportunities for formal employment, domestic workers constitute a significant proportion of the national workforce and remain among the most marginalized” cited some terms and conditions which are binding and have to be respected by member states, (ILO Convention 189).
Studies have been done by The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN) as well as The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). There are data records which show the countries that have had a positive impact from ratifying to the convention and a positive influence to other countries. It is good governance for countries to ratify to the convention. Good governance comes through regulating domestic work and it shows accountability of the government by demonstrating their obligation to commit to workers’ rights, gender equality and empowerment. Domestic workers contribute by way of their expenditures to migrate, consumption expenditures, social security payments, taxes, levy payments and payments to welfare funds. Finally women contribute significantly to countries of origin by way of economic and social remittances. Where data or studies do exist, they point to the untapped potential of remittances by women migrant workers. Data from Nepal suggests that women working abroad sent home 7.6 million rupees in 1997, 11 percent of the total gross domestic product (GDP). (UN WOMEN, 2008) Women, mostly domestic workers employed in the Gulf States, make up nearly two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s migrant workers, annually remitting more than USD 1.7 billion (UN WOMEN, 2011).
Challenges faced by domestic workers during their hours of work do not only encompass labour exploitation or deplorable conditions, sometimes social issues such as human trafficking have emanated from ‘domestic work’ as well as drug abuse. Having this binding law of domestic workers convention enables governments to recognize record and reward the value of domestic work to the economy and protect them and their employers and so does the momentum for improved social protection for domestic workers.
From the studies by UN WOMEN and ITUC data shows that Pacific Asian countries and South Africa have success stories that are well recorded and give others in a bid to attain human rights and dignity, deem it as a possible cause. In Zimbabwe ILO would matter and not only if it ratified to the convention but if ILO built strong relationships with the government to foster changes as well as encourage policy development that are fissible and that can be applied to the member state too.

End notes:
UN WOMEN (2008) Gender Dimensions of Remittances: A Study of Indonesian Domestic Workers in East and Southeast Asia. p.ix. Available at:
UN WOMEN (2011) Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice.p35.Available at:
Manzongo J. 2013. Parly to ratify Domestic Workers Convention.
Domestic workers count too: Implementing protections for domestic workers.

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