Similarly, to Italy, Germany has been fast in ratifying C189 in 2013. Other similarities concern demographic trends – with declining and aging national population – and the relevance of immigration in this sector. The multi-ethnic character of Germany society has a longer history than in the case of Italy. However, what the two countries share is the high percentage of women from Eastern European countries – especially those that have entered the European Union in 2011 – who are active in this sector as caregivers for elders.

The regime of free (or semi-free) circulation within the EU makes it particularly difficult to estimate the amount of these workers. It seems however that the numbers might be quite large, with 2.7 to 3 millions of undocumented domestic workers, for the majority women of migrant origin, who are working on temporary basis via (semi-legal) recruitment agencies. These ‘invisible’ workers are joining the ‘visible’ workforce composed of 3 other types: ‘traditional’ domestic workers who have regular contracts with full social-security coverage (about 47.000 people), “mini-jobbers” with reduced salaried and no security (about 300.000 people); and finally self-employed (in very small numbers). This results in more than 3 million domestic and care workers in Germany.

It must be noted that, as for the case of Italy, a legislative framework is in place for this sector already since the 1955, when it was seen as an instrument for the wellbeing and protection of the working-class German women who, at that time, occupied these jobs. Today, this legislation covers only the few numbers of those who are called the ‘traditional’ domestic workers. The actual bulk of domestic workers are undeclared migrants, with short-term migration plans, and who are not organized in trade unions or other types of grassroots organizations.

In the light of C189 ratification, the concern is thus more at the level of its actual effect on the realities of domestic and care workers in Germany. Key actors in this field are Church based organizations (e.g. Diakonie, Caritas), trade unions, such as the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), and welfare providers. To our knowledge, no domestic workers’ organizations are currently in place, whilst the employers’ organization Housewives Association which promoted the law in 1955 still exists today.

Country-expert: Marlene Seiffarth

Local workshop: 28 October 2017