Decent work for domestic workers: a special section of the IJCLL by members of the LLDRL

Regulatory innovation on decent work for domestic workers is the focus of a special section of volume 34:2 of the International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations. Guest-edited by Professors Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock and featuring contributions from LLDRL members and alumni Professor Lorena Poblete, Dr. Thierry Galani Tiemeni and the guest-editors themselves, the special section examines national regulation on domestic work in light of the ILO’s landmark Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (Convention No. 189) in Europe (Germany), Latin America (Argentina, Chile and Paraguay) and Africa (South Africa). 

Contributions by LLDRL members and alumni

Anne Trebilcock's articles identifies the challenges Germany has faced since it implemented the ILO Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention in 2014. It argues that although much – but not all – of German labour law already applies to domestic workers on an equal footing with other workers, the Government must take a number of steps in order to apply the Convention in full. As an example of this, the Government’s blanket exemption of ‘live-ins’ from the Convention’s scope negatively affects workers from Central and Eastern European countries who provide at-home care for older persons without maximum hours protection. The country’s exclusion of all domestic workers from the main health and safety laws is also problematic, as are some constraints on access to justice. In addition, the widespread phenomenon of undeclared paid domestic work calls for strengthened enforcement of existing legislation. Throughout her paper, Trebilcock argues that addressing these and other issues will be important, not only for improving the lot of domestic workers in Germany in accordance with the Convention, but also for ensuring sustainable quality care provision in a rapidly aging society while promoting greater labour market participation for women.

Lorena Poblete's article examines the Influence of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. Identifying the national reforms and amendments that swept all three countries following the ratification of Convention No. 189, the author compares the impact of Convention No. 189 on the labour markets and national legislations of each country and identifies differences in the interpretation of Convention No. 189 to address common challenges and fill the legal gaps associated with the protection of domestic workers.  

In turn, Adelle Blackett and Thierry Galani Tiemeni's co-authored article identifies regulatory innovation in the governance of decent work for domestic workers in South Africa through the lense of access to justice and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, namely the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The article draws on interviews and participant observations of the CCMA’s approach to dispute resolution and canvasses the ethnographic material alongside key scholarship on topic, to suggest that there are firm indicia that the CCMA structure, procedures and accessibility have helped to reinforce, over time, a recognition that domestic work is a form of employment to which labour law principles apply. The article concludes by affirming that while the CCMA is a critically important institution, it is only part – though a meaningful part – of the promise of labour law’s ‘citizenship at work’ in the context of persisting societal inequality. The research for this article was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Small Grant for Research Innovation. 

Read the articles

Excerpts from this special section are available here



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