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60 million domestic workers affected by COVID-19

by Nicolina Jilani
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated working conditions that were already very poor, and domestic workers were more vulnerable to the fallout from the pandemic because of long-standing gaps in labour and social protection, according to a new ILO report.

60 million domestic workers affected by COVID-19

This particularly affected the more than 60 million domestic workers in the informal economy, the report noted. Ten years after the adoption of a historic International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention that confirmed their labour rights, domestic workers are still fighting for recognition as workers and essential service providers.

Working conditions for many have not improved in a decade and have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report . At the height of the crisis, job losses among domestic workers ranged from 5-20 percent in most European countries, as well as Canada and South Africa. In the Americas, the situation was worse, with losses amounting to 25-50 percent. Over the same period, job losses among other employees were less than 15 percent in most countries.
Data in the report shows that the world’s 75.6 million domestic workers (4.5 percent of employees worldwide) have suffered significantly, which in turn has affected the households that rely on them to meet their daily care needs.
“The crisis has highlighted the urgent need to formalize domestic work to ensure their access to decent work, starting with the extension and implementation of labour and social security laws to all domestic workers,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.
A decade ago the adoption of the landmark Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) was hailed as a breakthrough for the tens of millions of domestic workers around the world – most of whom are women. Since then there has been some progress – with a decrease of more than 16 percentage points in the number of domestic workers who are wholly excluded from the scope of labour laws and regulations.
Domestic work remains a female-dominated sector, employing 57.7 million women, who account for 76.2 percent of domestic workers. While women make up the majority of the workforce in Europe and Central Asia and in the Americas, men outnumber women in Arab States (63.4 percent) and North Africa, and make up just under half of all domestic workers in Southern Asia (42.6 percent).
The vast majority of domestic workers are employed in two regions. About half (38.3 million) can be found in Asia and the Pacific – largely on account of China – while another quarter (17.6 million) are in the Americas.

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