A Tool for States or for Paid Domestic Workers? Some Examples from Ecuador, India and Europe


On 16 June 2011, amidst the clapping and singing of dozens of domestic workers gathering in Geneva from all over the world, the ILO has passed the Convention n. 189 concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. This is a truly historical step for the legal and social protection of this labour sector at the international level. The C189 is the most evident sign of the fact that today paid domestic work is considered a policy issue by several global actors, from both the institutional and the non-governmental side. The EU Parliament, UN-Women, OIM, GFMD, FRA can be numbered amongst the first, whilst the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) launched in 2009 is in the latter.

However, when one gets closer to the local level, the relationship between social movements, States and international organizations is not that clear cut. The example of Ecuador, India and the EU will show different ways in which States and grassroots organizations have reciprocally positioned themselves around this issue. The international campaign for C189 will be seen as a tool that has been differently be taken up by institutional and non-institutional actors to pursue the own political agendas, and their strategies of alliance/separation from other relevant actors. I will also make references to the on-going discussion at the EU level on a Directive for the rights of domestic and care workers in Europe.

This study is part of a larger ERC project currently in-progress untitled “DomEQUAL –A Global Approach to Domestic Work and Social Inequalities”.