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Domestic Workers Among Hardest Hit By COVID Crisis, Says UN Labour Agency


Domestic workers globally have been among the
hardest hit by the COVID crisis, losing more jobs and
working hours than other sectors, the UN labour agency
ILO
said
on Tuesday.

Ten years on from the landmark
adoption of the
International Labour Organization Convention
that
confirmed their rights, ILO
Director-General Guy Ryder insisted that despite “real
progress” in labour laws and social security provision in
some countries, these “essential service providers” had
rarely been so vulnerable in many others.

“These
workers lost their jobs in greater numbers or saw their
hours of work reduced to a greater extent than other parts
of the workforce”, he said, pointing to ILO data showing
that the number of domestic workers in the second quarter of
2020 had fallen by 25 to 50 per cent in most Latin American
and Caribbean countries – and by 70 per cent in Peru –
compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Most European
countries, as well as Canada and South Africa saw job
shedding among domestic workers range from five to 20 per
cent.

Overall, these losses resulted in a 50 per cent
decrease in total working hours for the sector, in the 13 of
the 20 countries under review, Mr. Ryder continued, before
highlighting the disproportionate impact of the crisis on
domestic workers.

Private misery

Countries
need to take action, because eight in 10 domestic workers
are informally employed and therefore lack legal and welfare
protection, the ILO chief said.

“Their status inside
the country can be called into question if they lose their
jobs (and) many domestic workers live in with their
employees, so they could lose their lodgings if they lose
their jobs as well. So, behind the aggregated numbers there
is a sort of deeper human impact which accentuates even more
the suffering involved in the latent economic impact of the
COVID pandemic.”

In Brazil, which is the second
highest employer of domestic workers in the world, almost
seven in 10 employees work informally – double the
national average.

This meant that when the COVID-19 pandemic
hit, fewer than 40 per cent of domestic workers had
effective access to social security linked to their
employment, said ILO report co-author Claire
Hobden.

“Given this impact, the need to formalise
domestic work in Brazil is incredibly urgent,” she
maintained, noting encouraging efforts by domestic workers
and employers that fixes “very different labour
standards” in Sao Paolo that others could look to, in
order to promote a recovery that focuses on society’s most
at-risk after the pandemic.

According to ILO, there
are at least 75.6 million domestic workers aged 15 and over,
amounting to around one in 25 people employed worldwide.
Just over three-quarters are women.

By gender, the
highest number of female domestic workers are in Latin
America and the Caribbean (91 per cent and 89 per cent
respectively)

And while women make up the majority of
the workforce in Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, by
contrast, male domestic workers outnumber their female
counterparts in Arab states (63 per cent) and North Africa.
In Southern Asia, the split is relatively
even.

Accepted Convention

Since the adoption
of the landmark 2011 Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189) –
ratified by 32 of ILO’s 187 Member States to date – Mr.
Ryder welcomed the fact that 16 per cent more workers were
now covered by labour law protection.

Nonetheless, 36
per cent of the sector remains “wholly excluded” from
such legislation, ILO said, noting that in Asia and the
Pacific and the Arab States, “the gaps are
largest”.

The UN agency also cautioned that even
where domestic workers were covered by labour and social
protection laws, a lack of implementation was notable.
According to the ILO’s latest report on the issue, just
under one in five workers in the sector enjoys effective,
employment-related, social protection coverage.

Wider
significance

It is important that more countries
boost domestic workers’ rights, as they are key part of
the wider economy, Mr. Ryder maintained.

“Domestic
workers are an essential part of the economic infrastructure
that allows households to meet their needs,” he said.
“Domestic workers also help their workers and particularly
women stay in the labour market. And this benefits us all
regardless of our area of work, or where we
live.

“And as we work towards policies that can
create sustainable and equitable recovery from the COVID-19
crisis, we do need to ensure that domestic workers are not
left behind, quite the reverse; they need to be brought
forward in terms of their working conditions to the levels
enjoyed by other parts of the
workforce.”

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