In Ukraine, domestic workers formed the country’s first organization for domestic workers, including childcare workers, this week. The organization’s formation is part of a growing global movement to assert the rights of this vast, mostly hidden and primarily female workforce, as laid out in International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
The new Domestic Employees’ Union—formed this week to coincide with International Domestic Workers Day, celebrated on June 16 —will raise the visibility of the approximately 160,000 domestic workers providing household and personal services to families in Ukraine.
“Information and legal support for domestic workers is important,” said the founder of the organization, Layhina Tatiana, because domestic workers do not yet have formal recognition in the country. Lacking formal standing under current labor law, the Domestic Employees’ Union must operate in the country as a non-governmental organization (NGO), rather than as a formal union.
The NGO’s stated mission is to raise the visibility of domestic workers’ labor; improve their wages, work conditions and benefits; encourage the government to implement all provisions of Convention 189; provide legal services in employer disputes; and represent the rights of Ukraine’s domestic workers nationally and internationally.
“Childcare and domestic workers in Ukraine deserve the same legal recognition and rights as all other workers in the country,” said Solidarity Center’s Europe/Central Asia Director, Rudy Porter.
An estimated 67.1 million people, mostly women, provide paid domestic service around the world—both in their own countries and as migrants workers—where they clean, cook and care for children and the elderly. Domestic workers are among the most exploited and abused in the world, often working up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages far below the minimum wage. Working behind closed doors in private homes, most have few legal protections and are vulnerable to exploitation as well as verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
Convention 189 established the first global standard for domestic workers worldwide, addressing wages, working conditions, benefits, labor brokers and child labor. Although the convention went into force in 2013, it has been ratified by only 28 countries. Since ratification, domestic workers in many countries began leading efforts to encourage their own governments to recognize domestic workers rights, including recognition and implementation of Convention 189.
The Solidarity Center works with domestic workers and other organizations that represent them around the world, including in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.