Domestic Slavery

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  • Domestic workers are at high risk of enslavement. A lack of legal protection, social isolation and a lack of personal autonomy within the home creates a high risk for slavery.
  • Domestic work is poorly regulated and undervalued. Domestic workers often work without an employment contract, and are often excluded from labour laws.
  • Some domestic workers live in their employers’ homes, and are considered ‘on call’ 24 hours per day. This can make them more vulnerable to being exploited.
  • When a worker is not free to leave, has their pay withheld, is abused, treated as a commodity and controlled by their employer, these conditions constitute slavery.
  • The most common signs are not being able to take time off, and having their freedom of movement restricted. There may be physical and emotional abuse and mistreatment.
  • Migrants are at especially high risk. They may have their documents confiscated, or be told that if they leave, they will be imprisoned for breaking immigration rules. They may face a language barrier, or be escorted back to their employer or detained if they escape.
  • Children are also at high risk. Estimates report about 17.2 million child domestic workers, with 11.5 million either below the minimum working age, or in hazardous circumstances.
  • ILO Convention 189 grants domestic workers the same standards as all other workers. It includes a minimum wage, clear terms of employment, daily and weekly rest time, and restrictions on in-kind payments. Twenty-three countries have ratified it.

Dive Deeper

Explore further

Stay up-to-date with the latest news and articles on the subject.

Legislation to Protect Domestic Workers (Indonesia)

27 Jan 2017

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End Tied Visas for Domestic Workers (UK)

27 Jan 2017

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Employer Commitments for Domestic Workers (Jordan)

27 Jan 2017

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