Gulf states: African domestic workers get a lease of life

By Lawrence Quartey

Posted on June 20, 2011 12:43

In an effort to stop widespread oppression and violence against domestic workers in the Gulf states, many of them African, an international trade union body has called on governments to do more to protect them.

A historical adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention and Recommendation by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has been followed by a call from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) urging governments around the world to protect the millions of people in the domestic work sphere.

Coming at the heels of an ITUC report, which highlighted migrant work in the Gulf region and the “daily grind of inhuman work hours” that most most migrant women workers, mainly from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and India, are confronted with, the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention and Recommendation seeks to address the widespread oppression and violence against migrant domestic workers, especially in the Gulf.

The Convention on Domestic Workers, a key instrument to ensure that workers in informal and precarious jobs have an effective access to decent work, was adopted on Thursday, June 16, at the ILO after many years of campaigning by unions and migrants’ and women’s organisations around the world.

“The adoption of this Convention is a great victory, and we call upon all governments to ratify and implement it and upon the ILO to provide clear guidance to these countries that need to improve their laws to protect domestic workers’ rights in their economies,” General Secretary of ITUC, Ms Sharan Burrow, said.

ITUC asserted that with many millions of migrant workers in domestic labour around the world, without proper monitoring, these workers would continue to suffer violent and oppressive employment conditions, exploitative recruitment agencies, remuneration below legal minimums, non-payment of wages, exclusion from social security schemes, excessive working hours, and the worst forms of child domestic labour.

“The international union movement will continue to shed light on the working conditions of migrant domestic workers in the Gulf Countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain,” Ms Burrow said.

While 83 per cent of an estimated 2.1 million migrant domestic workers are women, domestic work accounts for no less than 7.5 per cent of women’s wages worldwide.

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