14 Aug 2020
The World Federation of Trade Unions follows with concern the developments in the life and work of domestic workers around the world. Domestic workers face extremely negative and difficult working conditions that worsened during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to the ILO, there are 67 million domestic workers worldwide and 80% of them are women. They often work without a contract, which means that they lose necessary working rights and have no legal protection. They are vulnerable to non-payment of wages and layoffs that were widespread during the Pandemic.
In Argentina the percentage of domestic workers working in informal work is 70%, while only 33% of those who have a contract received full pay while not going to work due to the Pandemic. The rest would not be paid if they did not go to work because of the Coronavirus, so they were forced to go at the risk of their health but also without the necessary license during the lockdown.
Likewise in Ecuador, there are no contracts and 85% of domestic workers were laid off during the first months of the pandemic. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the first death from COVID-19 was that of a 63-year-old domestic worker who got infected from her boss after he returned from a trip to Italy. It is estimated that there are 6.1 million domestic workers in Brazil, while only 4% of them are organized in their union.
The situation is bleak in all parts of the world, for example in Indonesia where there are 4.2 million domestic workers, a survey found that they received only 20-30% of their country’s minimum wage. In the Middle East, there are 2.1 million domestic workers who are migrants from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Kenya and Ethiopia, where, according to ILO reports, many times are not paid at all for their work. In the Gulf countries, their bosses hold their visas and they cannot change bosses without their permission. In other countries, such as Tunisia, domestic workers say they were the first to be fired, while in Hong Kong and Singapore the law requires them to stay with their employers, so during the Pandemic they could not stay anywhere even on their leave days, due to the lockdown.
In Europe the exploitation is also very big, with terrorism, dismissals, sexual violence.
All of the above highlights the seriousness of the situation for domestic workers, the vast majority of whom work in informal work, they are paid peanuts, they work inside the houses of their employers doing heavy and unhealthy work, unprotected from any kind of violation.
The unions must intensify their action and take new initiatives to protect and improve the working conditions of these workers, demanding immediate support measures for those laid off during the Pandemic, work with rights for all domestic workers.
We invite all domestic workers to join their unions! Only the organized struggle will provide solutions, so we need active participation in the trade unions, trade unions with class-oriented line and militant struggle!