Europe


REGIONAL TRENDS

In Europe, about 9.5 million people are domestic workers.1 “On average, one in one hundred workers in Europe is a domestic worker. In Spain and Italy, about one in twenty women is a domestic worker.”2 Most domestic workers are migrants, although accurate data is hard to find. Migrants make up 75% of domestic workers in Italy and 60% in Spain. In 2019, there were over 8 million declared domestic workers in Europe, 91% of whom are women.3 Many migrant domestic workers are undeclared: according to a European Commission estimate, 6.3 million domestic workers are registered, while 3.1 million are working undeclared.4

The need for domestic workers is increasing in European countries as the number of elderly in need of care, one-parent families, and the employment of women increases.5 For this reason, domestic work is being outsourced, among others, and households directly employ domestic workers. Sometimes they are also employed by organisations providing personal services. However, in European countries there are various different forms of employment (part- or full-time, self-employment, ‘au pair’, in-house domestic workers, declared and undeclared work etc.).

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Often, the work they do is not recognized as work, making migrant domestic workers more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in the workplace and making their integration difficult. Even though those employed in declared work should enjoy the same rights as all employed persons, there may be derogating measures as employers want to reduce the labor costs when a worker is f.i. working part-time. If the work is undeclared, migrant domestic workers do not acquire any rights, often leading to isolation, fear of losing their job or of being deported, access to legal remedies, lack of leave and security cover etc. Although slavery has been abolished in Europe, “10% to 14% of the trafficking in human beings, in particular trafficking into the EU, would appear to be undertaken for the purpose of exploitation through domestic labor”.6 The ILO Domestic Workers Convention has so far been ratified by 7 EU Member States: Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Sweden.7 In 2021, the European Commission and an alliance of employers, trade unions and civil society organisations called on EU governments to implement the convention.8 Sweden and Norway have also ratified the convention.

EU ACTION

To address these challenges, labour inspection, which is common practice in many Member States helps to combat the exploitation of domestic workers.9 The EU has also provided funding for integration projects of migrant domestic workers that aim to raise awareness on domestic work, address the needs of young migrants and women, and promote admission policies that encourage integration of third-country nationals.10

SOURCES

  1. European Commission (2021). European alliance calls on EU governments to implement convention on domestic workers. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=89&furtherNews=yes&langId=en&newsId=10037
  2. ILO (2021). Migrant domestic work in Europe. Available at https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/labour-migration/photo-video/migrant-domestic-workers-in-europe-photo-contest/WCMS_206224/lang--it/index.htm
  3. Decker, A. & Lebrun, J. (2019). The status of migrant female domestic workers in Europe: time for an overhaul. European Trade Union Institute.
  4. European Commission (2021). European alliance calls on EU governments to implement convention on domestic workers. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=89&furtherNews=yes&langId=en&newsId=10037
  5. Decker, A. & Lebrun, J. (2019). The status of migrant female domestic workers in Europe: time for an overhaul. European Trade Union Institute.
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. European Commission (2021). European alliance calls on EU governments to implement convention on domestic workers. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=89&furtherNews=yes&langId=en&newsId=10037
  9. Decker, A. & Lebrun, J. (2019). The status of migrant female domestic workers in Europe: time for an overhaul. European Trade Union Institute.
  10. ILO (2021). Promoting Integration for Migrant Domestic Workers in Europe. Accessed on November 26, 2021 at https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/labour-migration/projects/WCMS_183810/lang--en/index.htm