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Protect 15 Million Child Domestic Workers

International Groups Call for Ratification of ILO Treaty

(New York, February 25, 2013) –  Ten leading international organizations called on ministers of labor around the globe in a letter released today to protect child domestic workers and to ratify the ILO Domestic Workers Convention (Convention 189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers). The convention, adopted in June 2011, will help eliminate child domestic labor and improve the lives of an estimated 15 million child domestic workers, the groups said.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that children make up nearly 30 percent of the world’s estimated 50 million to 100 million domestic workers. These children often work long hours for little pay, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, forced labor, and physical and sexual abuse. The ILO has announced that the 2013 World Day Against Child Labor, observed worldwide on June 12, will focus on child domestic labor.

“Governments can help millions of the world’s most vulnerable working children by ratifying the Domestic Workers Convention,” said Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour, one of the organizations signing the letter. “Child domestic labor is hidden slavery. Therefore, it’s unacceptable. It is the responsibility of governments to restore freedom, dignity, and childhood to keep the promises they have been making.”  

The Domestic Workers Convention extends basic labor rights to domestic workers, who are often excluded from national labor laws. Under the convention, domestic workers are entitled to the same rights as other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, minimum wage coverage, and overtime compensation. The convention also obliges governments to take steps to eliminate child labor in domestic work and to protect child domestic workers who can work legally, by setting a minimum age for domestic work in line with existing ILO conventions, and ensuring that work by children above that age does not deprive them of education.

“Girls in domestic work are hidden in private homes, where they are more likely to be abused and less likely to get an education,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Governments can make a dramatic change in these children’s lives by putting the new convention into practice.”  

The letter’s signers urged governments to use the World Day Against Child Labor to announce publicly that they have ratified the convention or intend to. Four governments have ratified the convention – Uruguay, the Philippines, Mauritius, and Italy, and at least 48 countries have submitted the convention to their parliaments or other bodies for consideration.

The organizations signing the letter included child rights, human rights, and humanitarian organizations that operate in more than 135 countries worldwide. They are: Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, Defence for Children International, Child Rights International Network, Global March Against Child Labour, Human Rights Watch, the International Domestic Worker Network, International Labor Rights Forum, Plan International, and World Vision International.








Global March Movement Against Child Domestic Labour

Child domestic labour is one of the most elusive forms of child labour to tackle. Since its inception, Global March Against Child Labour  has been struggling to bring the issue of child domestic labour from the closed doors into the limelight.

Since 1998 to 2013 remarkable progress has been achieved on the issue of child domestic labour.

In 2004 Global March with International Labour Organization (ILO) and social partners from around the world observed 4thWorld Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) focusing on the overlooked plight of domestic child labour, by holding simultaneous mass actions worldwide. The demand during the events was to the governments to put a legal ban on employing children below the legal minimum age of employment in domestic work and to provide legal protection for domestic work in general. International and national institutions were asked to integrate the issue of child domestic labour in action plans for Education For All and to incorporate the root causes that push children into domestic work in poverty reduction strategies.

Country wise action plan – Since WDACL 2004, Global March started country wise action by putting information of child domestic labour in their Worst Form of Child Labour Reports (Link) . This not only made the issue visible but also helped civil society plan policy, advocacy and campaign initiatives. The action was happening in Philippines,Togo, Peru, Nepal, India, etc. In every conference - national and international the issue was raised by Global March representatives.

In 2006, Indian government banned employment of children as domestic servants or servants  in dhabas (roadside eateries), restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas or in other recreational centres, effective from 10 October 2006. Global March’s partner organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) started the mission on domestic labour with Ashraf in 1996. Young Ashraf, who was employed at the residence of an Indian Administrative Service officer, was burnt with a stove by his employer because he dared to drink the milk meant for his child.

In 2011,  ILO adopted the historic Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, Convention 189 - Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Worker 50 years since the issue of their rights were first raised. This is a milestone for domestic workers – one of the most vulnerable groups of workers across the world. The Domestic Workers Convention sets the minimum age of employment and prohibits children in hazardous work and regulates working hours, leaves including maternity leaves, health insurance, among other decent work standards.  Convention and Recommendation will not only protect domestic workers and lead to improved working conditions, but will also ultimately provide a legal platform upon which a much stronger campaign to tackle child domestic labour can be built. Global March have initiated wide range of interventions, such as: expanding the knowledge-base on the subject; awareness-raising and capacity building of social partners to improve their response; technical assistance to develop and adopt national legislation and enforcement mechanisms; support to the educational system to offer more and better educational opportunities to children and youth involved in domestic service, and assistance to such children in the form of reintegration and rehabilitation services.