World leaders urge support for domestic workers treaty

14th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Tuesday on member states of the UN labour agency to support a new treaty that offers protection to domestic workers.

"We must support the ILO convention for domestic workers," said Yudhoyono, underlining the importance of the treaty to his country as a "relatively large proportion" of the Southeast Asian state's migrant workers are domestic workers.

"I believe that this convention can provide guidance to the sending and host governments to protect migrant domestic workers," he told the International Labour Organisation's annual conference.

Germany's Merkel also supported the call at the UN labour agency's meeting.

"This is an area that has been very much in the shadow of official employment. It's so important that standards are put down that makes it possible to actually respect human dignity and decent labour standards in this area," she said.

"I wish you every success as an organisation for the ratification of this instrument because this may indeed be a milestone for fair and equitable labour conditions," added Merkel.

The landmark treaty, aimed at protecting an estimated 52.6 million domestic workers worldwide, would ensure that these employees enjoy conditions "not less favourable" than other workers.

It would require governments to ensure domestic workers understood their rights, preferably through written contracts.

The document also offers domestic workers a full rest day every week, and prevents employers from requiring their employees to remain with the employer's household during their annual leave or rest days.

The convention, which is expected to be adopted later this week at the ILO's 100th conference, will come into effect upon the ratification of two countries.

Countries with large numbers of domestic workers, including the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa, have also spoken in support for the treaty.

The Indonesian president said his government was already "intensifying cooperation" with domestic and foreign recruitment agencies to ensure the safety of domestic workers.

ILO data, which is a compilation of national statistics, indicate that there were at least 52.6 million domestic workers in 2010, including 21.5 million in Asia and 19.6 million in Latin America.

But there are reasons to believe that the true number, concealed by undercounting among some states, could lie close to 100 million, the agency added.

© 2011 AFP

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