In the African continent, the emergence of the middle class in urban areas combined with the integration of female workers into the labor market have contributed to the rise of the demand for domestic services.1 Domestic labor is a relevant employment source giving work to 2.2% of the labor force.2 This sector is particularly significant for women: of all female paid workers in Africa, 13.6% are employed in the domestic sector.3

However, data cover only 20 countries, this means that the percentage of total employment covered is reduced to 62%, moreover, a significant part of domestic work occurs in informal economy which does not allow employee to be visible; for these reasons, numbers are likely to be much higher. Common opinions within the local population such as “almost everyone has a domestic worker” and “even domestic workers in urban areas have domestic workers” corroborate the argument that domestic work sector has been largely underestimated.4

Nowadays several issues characterize the sector: gender imbalances, prevalence of informal employment, trafficking of children and women, lack of legal coverage.5


The action of the ILO in the African region is guided by the International Labor Standards (ILS) and the Decent Work Agenda and implemented with the collaboration of the World of Work actors, which includes the Ministries of Labor and workers’ and employers’ organization from all the 54 African countries.6 In its approach the ILO takes into account the needs of the labor markets as well as those of migrant workers regardless of their nationality, skill level and immigration status.7

Legally-wise, the African continent is taking several steps ahead, with a series of policy frameworks tackling development, labor, and migration. These are namely:


  1. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  2. Ibid.
  3. ILO, 2016. Ensuring protection and rights for domestic workers in Africa
  4. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  5. ILO, 2013. Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection