• Tens of millions of women and girls around the world are employed as domestic workers in private households. They clean, cook, care for children, look after elderly family members, and perform other essential tasks for their employers. Despite their important role, they are among the most exploited and abused workers in the world. They often work 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages far below the minimum wage. They may be locked within their workplace and subject to physical and sexual violence. Children and migrant domestic workers are often the most vulnerable.

    A new international treaty – the Domestic Workers Convention – was adopted in June 2011, providing the first global standards to protect domestic workers.

  • Domestic workers in downtown Lima, Peru demonstrate to demand labor protections, June 15, 2012. The placards (L-R) read, “We all have the same dignity and rights” and “We demand the ratification of the 189 ILO Convention.”
    The founding of a global federation of domestic workers is a sign of the growing strength of the movement, and a key moment to assess progress for workers long excluded from basic labor protections. There are an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide – the majority of whom are women and girls, and many of whom are migrants.

Reports

Domestic Workers

  • Jun 11, 2014
    The adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on June 11, 2014, of a landmark new treaty will advance the fight to prevent forced labor, and to protect and compensate the estimated 21 million victims worldwide, Human Rights Watch said today. Governments, trade unions, and employers’ organizations that make up the ILO overwhelmingly voted to adopt the ILO Protocol on Forced Labor, which updates a widely-ratified, but outdated, 1930 treaty in order to better address contemporary abuses, including against migrants and in the private sector.
  • Jun 10, 2014
  • Apr 8, 2014
  • Apr 7, 2014
    The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has committed to abolish what she calls "modern day slavery", and within weeks will present a bill to parliament making it easier to prosecute and punish those responsible for human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and slavery. But one highly vulnerable group - migrant domestic workers - are currently omitted from the scope of the proposed legislation. The government is doing far too little to protect them, and through changes to immigration rules, has actually made it harder for them to access help.
  • Mar 31, 2014
    The European Union (EU)-Africa summit provides an important opportunity to highlight crucial human rights developments in both Africa and Europe. Progress is being made on many human rights issues in an array of countries, but daunting challenges remain. The summit agenda includes both democracy and governance and peace and security, two broad topics that include a range of human rights concerns.
  • Mar 31, 2014
    Migrant domestic workers accompanying their employers to the United Kingdom are being subjected to serious abuses including forced labor, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The UK government is doing far too little to protect vulnerable workers, and recent changes to UK immigration rules make it harder for workers to flee abuse, the report found.
  • Feb 19, 2014
  • Dec 31, 2013
    With the slaughter of civilians in Syria still horribly unrestrained, it is easy to be discouraged about human rights. There is, of course, every reason for outrage about Syria, and about the international community's narrow focus on peace talks, unlikely as they are to succeed anytime soon, without any comparable effort to stop the killing of civilians while the fighting continues. But there has been human rights progress in many areas in 2013. That is of obvious importance for the immediate beneficiaries, but it also should encourage efforts for progress on persistent abuses elsewhere. Here are a few of the human rights milestones of the past year.
  • Dec 19, 2013
    The uproar in India over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York is growing. Indians are protesting outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, the Indian government has revoked privileges for American diplomats, and Indian politicians have called for a review of their nation's ties with the United States.
  • Dec 17, 2013