While in the case of Ecuador and Brazil we can speak of a convergence between new left governments’ agendas and domestic workers’ rights, when looking at Colombia the scenario seems to be shaped by the rising awareness of women’s rights and the conditions of racialised population in the context of the peace process. The current situation is the aftermath of over 50 years of a civil war that has greatly damaged women of Afro-Colombian and indigenous background who represent a large proportion of those who have been forcibly displaced due to the conflict. This mainly rural population moved to the outskirts of the big cities, and thus entered the market for domestic and care work in cities such as Bogotà and Medellin.

Colombia has ratified C189 in 2014, and thereafter adopted a number of measures in order to include this category of workers within the social security system. In 2013, it saw the foundation of the Unión de Trabajadoras del Servicio Doméstico (UTRASD), the first ethnicity-based trade union for Afro-Colombian domestic workers only, which provides a very interesting case for comparison with other domestic workers’ groups. Notably, other domestic workers’ organizations existed in the past and had campaigned for new legislations. In fact, already starting in 1988, domestic workers have been able to pay the social security, pension and health care coverage with a lower contribution base than other workers (Law 11/1988). However, a legal void remains regarding DWs’ rights as there is no specific law explicitly addressing this type of work.

More recently, after a long fight pursued by domestic workers, trade unions and feminist political leaders, the National Congress recognized the rights of this category to receive a “prima”, i.e. an additional bonus that all workers in Colombia receive two times a year as a recognition for creating surplus for their employers (Law 1778 of 2016). This is the outcome of a successful campaign that emphasized how domestic and care workers should be acknowledged for their contribution to the country wealth, including in a technical way as part of the GDP.

Country-expert:  Ms. Maria Fernanda Cepeda Anaya

Local workshop: 6 October 2017