Make decent work a reality for domestic workers
What you need to know:
- Today is International Domestic Workers' Day, dedicated to celebrating domestic workers.
- On this day in 2011, Convention 189 (C189), the international labour law for protecting domestic workers, came into effect.
- That was followed by C190, effected to end violence and harassment at the workplace.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are 75.6 million domestic workers. Kenya accounts for over two million with the prospect of the number being higher as no national census to establish the number.
Since 2019, Kenya has trained over 7,000 domestic workers monthly for the global market, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries of Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia, where it has bilateral labour agreements (BLAs) for unskilled labour.
Today is International Domestic Workers' Day, dedicated to celebrating domestic workers. On this day in 2011, Convention 189 (C189), the international labour law for protecting domestic workers, came into effect. That was followed by C190, effected to end violence and harassment at the workplace.
But Kenya is among the countries yet to ratify C189, on the excuse of enough labour protection for domestic workers. But there is no special law to protect them at home and abroad. Yet they mostly work in very risky environments that do not observe basic human rights, decent work, social protection, safety and occupational health.
Safeguarding vulnerable workers
The twin conventions play a big role in safeguarding a very vulnerable and unique constituency of workers usually excluded from and discriminated against in national development and policy. C189 would see domestic workers enjoy their right to decent work and access to opportunities that promote their full participation in national development.
Failure to ratify such global conventions predisposes workers, especially women and girls who survive through domestic work to abuse and exploitation. For 11 years, little has been done locally to celebrate C189 and its offerings, yet domestic work is one of the biggest employers of women and girls.
Domestic work “makes all other work possible”. Households engage domestic workers to man their homes as they tend to jobs away. It is domestic workers who provide the backbone for development and economic prosperity of nations as they are left behind taking care of children, laundry work, cooking, nursing the elderly and the sick while undertaking other critical household chores vital for the average household to function in a modern economy.
Lost their jobs
This year’s celebration comes against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, when domestic workers bore an increased care burden amid tough mitigation measures. Many lost their jobs as their employers also did, or were forced to work without rest on half-pay as their burden of caring for those infected and affected by the virus was heightened. The added responsibilities did not translate into higher wages but gave rise to heightened mental stress and sexual and gender-based violence cases.
Let us mind the plight of domestic workers and invest in their recovery and social protection as we revamp other sectors of the economy hugely affected by Covid-19. Let us not leave anyone behind.
Ms Murogo is the founder and executive director, Centre for Domestic Training and Development. [email protected]