Domestic work is the most important source of waged employment for women workers, especially those from rural areas and with little or no formal education. Yet domestic work takes place in private households, and thus is often regarded as not ‘real work’ and tends to be unregulated, while the workers tend to be unorganized. Many factors inhibit their organization, including the unpaid domestic work most women do in the home, which lowers the ‘market value’ and social value of domestic work; the difficulty of reaching individual workers in people’s private homes; and the lack of defined working hours.
Despite the structural, gender and racial discrimination against DW, the movement of DW has been growing stronger and stronger. Their voices make the hidden violations against them visible and their organizing ensures the contribution of domestic work gets recognized. Major domestic workers organizations, trade unions and trade union national centres have been campaigning for an ILO Convention for domestic workers in the last two years. AMRC has been working towards the capacity-building of DW organizations in China and contributing to the building-up of a sub-regional and Asian network in collaboration with the Asian DW Network. This article captures the recent struggle for the recognition of DW rights in the regional and several national campaigns towards adoption of an ILO Convention on Decent Work for DW. Instead of focusing on the problems which DW face, this article will look at the subjectivity and resistance of the DW movement.
This article was translated into Korean and was published on the quarterly journal of Korea Labour Institute in May 2011.