Asean governments urged to give domestic workers full protection

Writer: 
Pathricia Ann V. Roxas

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - There are almost 10 million domestic workers in South-East Asia and the Pacific, more than two million of which are migrant domestic workers.

It is time for all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) governments to value the rights of domestic workers, the International Labour Office (Ilo) urged on Monday.

In a statement two days before the 10th Asean Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML) on October 25, Ilo Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Tomoko Nishimoto urged Asean governments to tweak their laws and policies to provide domestic workers “the same protection as all other workers."

"It is time for all employers of domestic workers to recognise that domestic workers are neither servants nor ‘members of the family,’ but workers that should have the same rights as other workers," she added.

Often called as the "largest invisible workforce," Nishimoto said there are almost 10 million domestic workers in South-East Asia and the Pacific, more than two million of which are migrant domestic workers.

"In fact, domestic workers make up nearly 20 per cent of all migrant workers in the Asean region. The vast majority are women," she added.

Despite this, she said labor laws in most Asean member states do not apply to domestic workers, thereby "excluding them from the protection provided to other workers such as social security benefits, minimum wage and limitation in working hours."

Citing an Ilo study in 2013, Nishimoto said  61 percent of all domestic workers in Asia were entirely excluded from labor protections, and only 3 percent enjoyed equal protection with other general workers.

In this light, senior officials from ministries of labor and other line ministries, workers and employers representatives and civil society participants from all 10 Asean member states are set to discuss and adopt a set of recommendations to achieve decent work for domestic workers at the 10th AFML.

Ilo said this would be held in Manila on October 25 to 26, while Ilo regional experts from the Asia and the Pacific on labor migration and domestic workers would also take place in Manila on October 23 to 26.

"It is time to renew the commitment taken 50 years ago to collaborate for a better future for all women and men. A future that realise decent work for all, including domestic workers," Nishimoto said.