International Labour Organization (ILO)’s new report indicates that there are at least 52.6 million domestic workers work across the world.
The sector grew significantly over the 15 years from 1995 to 2010 by almost 20 million and in 2010 accounted for 1.7 per cent of global employment.
The ILO report titled “Domestic workers across the world: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection”, was made available to the Ghana News Agency over the weekend.
It said an almost universal feature was that domestic work was predominantly carried out by women, many of whom were migrants or members of historically disadvantaged groups.
The report said the nature of their work, which by definition was carried out in private homes, meant that they were less visible than other workers and were vulnerable to abusive practices.
It said while many of the existing international labour standards allowed for the exclusion of domestic workers in their application, the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), sought to bring domestic workers under the umbrella of labour law.
The report said many observers saw this step as long overdue, especially when set against standard-setting activity in other economic sectors.
It said that despite progress in many countries; extending protection that was comparable to that afforded to other workers to domestic workers remained an urgent task.
The report said many domestic workers were still not protected by laws that regulate working time, grant a minimum income or provide maternity protection.
It said the upward trend reflects not only population and employment growth over this period, but also a growth in the share of domestic workers in total employment.
The report said Africa is the third largest employer of domestic workers, after Asia and Latin America; with approximately 5.2 million domestic workers employed throughout Africa, of whom 3.8 million are women and 1.4 million men.
It said this was a modest increase when compared with the estimate of 4.2 million for 1995.
The report said both figures should be read with some caution as there was a lack of sufficiently disaggregated employment data for many African countries.
It said the statistical database built for the global and regional estimates was weakest for Africa, where it covered only 20 countries, which between them account for 62 per cent of the region’s total employment.
The report said improving working conditions for domestic workers would make a considerable contribution to gender equality in the labour market.
It said causal factors behind this finding were likely to include high-income inequality and the widespread establishment of domestic work during the colonial period.
This report is the outcome of collaboration between lawyers, statisticians and working conditions specialists, and between many different units from within the ILO.
It formed part of a broader effort by the ILO to support the tripartite constituents – governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations under its Global strategy for action on decent work for domestic workers.