ILC Report 2011

Stand With Us Protecting Young Workers through the Convention and Recommendation on Domestic Work

Around 250 current and former child do- mestic workers were consulted at the be- ginning of 2011 in 13 locations across seven countries to seek their views about how the current ILO Convention and Rec- ommendation on Decent Work for Domes- tic Workers (hereinafter the Convention and Recommendation) should protect them.

Young domestic workers are asking dele- gates at the ILC to support the adoption of article and paragraph 4 of the Convention and Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. This consultation document outlines why these two provisions should be supported by ILO delegates and implemented at national level following the ratification of the two instruments.

What child domestic workers called for at the 2010 ILC

This consultation process is part of an initiative dedicated to giving child domestic workers a voice in the ILO convention making process. Last year, a similar number of children were consulted and five of them came to present their recommenda- tions during the 2010 ILC. They expressed four key concerns:

  1. No-one should be a domestic worker below the national legal minimum working age. Young domestic workers above this age (usually 14 or 15 years) can work, but their employment should be subject to special protection.
  2. Written employment agreements are the best way of ending exploitation and getting young domestic workers back into education.
  3. Young domestic workers need urgent protection from physical, sexual and emo- tional abuse. Local leaders and law enforcers should look out for and assist young domestic workers in abusive situations.
  4. Often isolated, young domestic workers should be locally registered and given opportunities to organise.
Standing with child domestic workers at the 2011 ILC

This year, another group of child domestic workers will be participating in the ILC to voice the needs of child domestic workers globally in relation to the Convention and Recommendation.

Anti-Slavery International and Children Unite – who have coordinated the consul- tation process amongst child domestic workers - support the two provisions cur- rently included in the Convention and Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers:

Article 4 of the Convention:
1. Each Member shall set a minimum age for domestic workers consistent with the provisions of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), and not lower than that established by national laws and regulations for workers generally.

2. Each Member shall take measures to ensure that work performed by domestic workers who are under the age of 18 and above the minimum age of employment does not deprive them of, or interfere with, their compulsory schooling, further ed- ucation or vocational training.

Paragraph 4 of the Recommendation:
4. (1) Members should, taking into account the provisions of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), and Recommendation (No. 190), iden- tify types of domestic work which, by their nature or the circumstances in which they are carried out, are likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children, and should also prohibit and eliminate such child labour.

(2) When regulating the working and living conditions of domestic workers, Mem- bers should give special attention to the needs of domestic workers who are under the age of 18 and above the minimum age of employment as defined by na- tional laws and regulations, and take measures to protect them, including by:
(a) strictly limiting their hours of work to ensure adequate time for rest, education and training, leisure activities and family contacts;
(b) prohibiting night work;
(c) placing restrictions on tasks that are excessively demanding, whether physi- cally or psychologically; and
(d) establishing or strengthening mechanisms to monitor their working and living conditions.

What child domestic workers have told us

A total of 252 children were consulted in India, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania, Togo, Peru and Costa Rica between February and May 2011. They shared their enthusi- asm and expectations about the way the Convention and Recommendation will improve their working conditions and impact on their lives.

Young domestic workers expressed clear views about some of the crucial provi- sions of the Convention and Recommendation, notably the right to education, the need for special protection for child domestic workers and the monitoring of living and working conditions of child domestic workers.

Right to Education (article 4 of the Convention)

The current draft of article 4 recognises the right of young domestic workers to an education. Young domestic workers are often deprived of an education, curtailing their chances for better life and personal development. During the consultation, whether or not they had received any type of training, child domestic workers were unanimous in reaffirming the importance of education and their unconditional support for the recognition of this right in the Convention.

In particular, child domestic workers think:
• Formal education and vocational training are both essential and provide themwith complementary skills and knowledge for their future life;
• The right to compulsory primary education is a minimum standard which should in no case be derogated from and should be complemented by vocational training and/or further education depending on the particular choice and need of each young person.

The proposed Convention will help CDWs in such a way that the government, NGOs, institutions and CDWs themselves will initiate and establish a good environment for protecting CDWs (Abla, Mwanza, Tanzania)

The new ILO Convention will help improve the working conditions of young domestic workers (Opale, Lomé, Togo)

The [current] laws for wages, time, holidays, or days leave, protection from sexual abuse, decent work etc are not properly implemented, the convention should intervene for us in this matter (Faiza, Maharashtra, India)

Child domestic workers also warn of the obstacles they commonly face that make it difficult and sometimes impossible for them to receive an education:
1. the costs of schooling and training, including uniforms, fees, books and equipment;
2. the limited time they have to go to school/training after they have completedtheir domestic tasks;
3. the opposition of employers and parents to their right to education;
4. the discriminatory attitude of school children and staff, and the failure of education system to take into account their special needs.

For me, going to school helped a lot, because it was a place to play with others. When you work, you can’t play (María, Lima, Peru)

Going to school helped me to understand life and my circumstances. It helped me to order my ideas, increased my vocabulary and helped me to deal with my emotions (Natalia, Lima, Peru)

Training will lead us to a better job because it teaches us to be responsi- ble and we will not be discriminated against because we’ll know (Pilar, San José, Costa Rica)

I want to learn more so that it can be useful for me to earn money (Lakshmi, Meghalaya, India)
We can get a proper education like our employers’ children do and have a bright future (Suraj, Kathmandu, Nepal)

Going to school makes it possible to find a good job; our employers have a job because they went to school (Salomé, Lomé, Togo)

Schooling gives you better jobs than just being a maid (Leah, Manila, Philippines)

My employers just told me they will not give me school allowance any- more. Even if I liked going to school, my salary is just not enough to be able to pay school fees (Ronald, Manila, Philippines)

Special protection for young domestic workers (paragraph 4)

The majority of the children who were consulted are ‘live-in’ domestic workers i.e. living with their employer. In most cases, they have been pushed into this situa- tion because of: poverty; a lack of opportunity in the region where they come from; because they have been recruited by an employer to work and live in a house; be- cause they saw it as their only chance to go to school; or because they were lured into thinking that their situation would be better in the city.

The views of child domestic workers are pretty clear: in a majority of cases, and given the choice, they would prefer not to live within the home of their employer. Their reasons for this include: 

• living-in increases their vulnerability to abuse because of their increased isolation and a lack of monitoring or supervision of their work situation; 
• children who live-in with their employer are given a substantially heavier work load and are often expected to work at night; 
• their living conditions can be very bad, including a complete lack of privacy, absence of adequate sleeping arrangements and a lack of appropriate food; 
• they suffer an increased sense of loneliness caused by the lack of contact with their family and friends.

Child domestic workers have also made it clear that it is in the power of the employers to change a negative situation into a positive one by providing food instead of depriving them of it; by paying an agreed salary instead of withholding it; by providing guidance and advice rather than humiliating them.

The two most common expectations expressed by young domestic workers who were living-in with their employers are: 

• not to be treated differently from other members of the family; 
• not to be expected to work more than their agreed hours and for no less than their agreed salary.

I wanted in the first place to have a chance to go to school (Maricel, Manila, Philippines)

We can be badly treated, abused physically or through work, they can force us to work at night and not give us enough rest (Luisa, San José, Costa Rica)

We get good advice, thoughts and inspiration from employers (Vanini, Tamil Nadu, India)

The employers are not able to bear when we ask for our payment and thus they start treating us very badly. They scold us very often and at times beat us (Diti, Tamil Nadu, India)

I prefer to live with my employers because they are good to me. They don’t force me to do things that I cannot do. For example, I get enough rest and I can decide when I want to do laundry, etc (Evelyn, Manila, Philippines)

In line with paragraph 4 of the Recommendation, young domestic workers identified a number of tasks which they consider to be dangerous by nature: 

• carrying heavy loads; 
• being given sole responsibility for caring for children or the elderly; 
• cooking (especially when using equipment unknown to the child); 
• carrying out unhygienic tasks like emptying toilets, sceptic tanks, animal pens or washing underwear.

Young domestic workers also made suggestions regarding the circumstances that can make some tasks dangerous. They mentioned: 

• working in a household composed of many members, which will mean a considerable increase in workload; 
• being asked to perform the same tasks over and over again, which increases the risks of accidents by carelessness and worsens the impact of chemicals and tasks that are ergonomically detrimental; 
• performing tasks in potentially private rooms places, like the employers bedroom or bathroom, where they are more vulnerable to sexual abuse.

I nearly fell down the roof when I cleaned it one time (Marissa, Manila, Philippines)

There are different tasks and they are not the same. Some are danger- ous and some are also enjoyable (Maina, Meghalaya, India)

During festivals, we have to wash a lot of utensils; we don’t get rest (Alisha, Kathmandu, Nepal)

Doing more than one thing at a time is dangerous because one gets dis- tracted and accidents can happen (Paula, Costa Rica)

Taking care of small children or disabled and elderly people is danger- ous because they are vulnerable and we do not know how to take care of them in the way they really need us to (Eva, Costa Rica)

I think that any task, whether easy or hard can be dangerous if we don’t pay attention to what we are doing or if we don’t do it with a minimum level of safety (Isabel, San José, Costa Rica)
Young domestic workers believe that one very important way to minimise the chance of abuse and exploitation occurring is to ensure that they benefit from employment contracts.

Long working days, delays and deduction in payments, lack of rest or days off are all too common and have the potential to make their work hazardous. Young domestic workers have clearly stated the need to see their employment situation regulated through the use of contracts which should cover all items currently included in the draft Convention. But they add that contracts should also clearly state the right of young workers to attend school/vocational training and clearly identify the tasks that young workers should not be expected to do.

I start cooking at 4am and start cleaning the house. I do errands from 5 to 6am and school homework from 7 to 11am. In the afternoon, my em- ployer allows me to go to school from 1 to 4pm. During rest time, my employer asks me to run errands sometimes, or put the child to sleep at around 8 or 9pm. Its hard because I don’t get to study so I don’t come prepared for school the next day. (Marites, Manila, Philippines)

There should be agreement between employers and CDWs with regard to wages, holidays, chance for sending to school, etc (Elsa, Andhra Pradesh, India)

There is no description of the work we have to do when we start; we have to do what the family members need from us (Meena, Tamil Nadu, India)

We have to work without breaks because we don’t feel we can ask adults for them as our rights (Radha, Tamil Nadu, India)

We are not paid if we take leave due to sickness, and we are given no holidays except for major festivals like Christmas or Depaveli (Sunita, Tamil Nadu, India)

We have to work for a long time. Often it takes a year before the em- ployer allows you to have a vacation. But this is part of the job (Mary, Manila, Philippines)

Monitoring of living and working conditions (paragraph 4)

Young domestic workers want their situation to be monitored. They believe that putting an end to the isolation they commonly suffer will be instrumental to minimising and eventually stopping the abuse they suffer from. It will help ensure that their well-being as children and young workers is protected.

In particular they have stated that:
• home visits must take place on a monthly to three-monthly basis; interviews with young domestic workers must be done without the employer present in order to avoid intimidation;
• monitoring must be done by a state official (local government or labour inspector) accompanied by a social worker, health worker or NGO representative;
• monitoring must cover all aspects of the living and working conditions of the young domestic worker, as per this draft Convention, including: living arrangements, working hours and conditions, days off, rest, schooling, treatment in the household and payment;
• monitoring must assess the living and working conditions of young domestic workers against all of the provisions included in article 6 and paragraph 5(2) of the Convention and Recommendation.

Our situation should be monitored by an inspector of the Labour Ministry because they know the themes and the regulations. They are more capable to understand labour matters and regulations (Sofia, Lima, Peru)

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