EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR SERVICES TO INDIVIDUALS (EFSI)
On the 23rd November 2021, MDWinfo interviewed an employee of the EFSI who illustrated the main activities and challenges in the domestic sector at the European level.
EFSI – European Federation for Services to Individuals – gives voice to the Personal and Household Services industry (PHS) in Europe, it is currently active in 21 EU Member States and represents national associations, employer’s organizations, and PHS providers. EFSI was founded in 2006 as a membership-based organization with the aim of shaping a more favorable environment for PHS workers in Europe through improving the image of the sector as well as promoting adequate policies in support of its development.
EFSI is currently advocating for access to domestic services of good quality at a fair price as well as better working conditions by spreading information and statistical studies about the sector. As part of its advocacy within the EU, EFSI is contributing as a partner to the Advancing Personal and Household Services European project.
ISSUES WITH RESEARCH IN THE SECTOR
According to the interviewee, researching and advocating for the domestic sector entails various challenges. First, it is difficult to fully address the multiplicity of work arrangement and relationships: domestic workers can be working part time, full time, in multiple households, living in or outside the household; moreover, they can have a work relationship directly with their employer, through a service-providing agency (private or not) or they can be self-employed. Second, there is no common definition agreed upon by all countries and organizations, sometimes domestic workers are placed under broader or mixed categories such as "cleaning providers". This lack of clear classification of domestic workers often results in a lack of adequate and comprehensive legal frameworks that protects them at a country level. The situation is even worse for migrant domestic workers as there is even fewer statistical data about them and often there is no information about their nationality. This further reduces their visibility and puts them at greater risk of being disregarded by the legislative framework. At the moment there are no specific initiatives at the EU level to better address statistical collection.
RATIFYING AND IMPLEMETNING ILO C189 IN THE EU
Concerning the difficulties for European countries to ratify and implement the ILO C189, the interviewee explains that this is a political question: many countries simply have no interest in ratifying the convention. In June 2021, in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the C189, EFSI sent a letter to 21 EU member states to encourage them to ratify the convention; among of all the receivers, only 4 replied and 3 convened a meeting. Another obstacle that must be considered is of financial nature: aside from a legal effort, countries are required to make a significant investment in the sector in order to bring actual change. In some countries, there have been partial accomplishments: for instance, the C189 has been ratified but not implemented or there is legal protection but no willing to make national investments. However, some European countries do represent models for improvement: Belgium, Sweden, and France have a well-established collective bargaining system and decent legal coverage.
Concerning international migrant workers within the personal and household sector, the interviewee mentioned PICUM – platform for international cooperation of undocumented migrants – as a valuabe resource; it advocates for safe migration pathways and access to work permits.
GOING BEYOND THE ILO C189
Besides the implementation of the convention, the interviewee illustrated what is needed to enhance fair working conditions for migrant domestic workers in Europe. The priorities for migrant domestic workers are safe recruitment paths – for which the ILO is campaigning – and the possibility to access work permits in the country of arrival. For the sector in general, the objectives for the future are better working conditions and better access to social protection. Concerning social protection there is a dichotomous trade-off: on one hand, governments want to make domestic work more affordable, and this is achieved through reducing social contributions, but, on the other hand, lack of social contributions impedes workers to access social protection. For instance, in Germany services are more affordable, but this is unsustainable for the domestic workers. In Spain, a domestic worker filed a complaint to the administrative court claiming she wanted access to unemployment benefits, the issue was later raised to court of justice of the EU.
Governments need to invest in domestic work: employers seek a more professionalized service while employees better working conditions. Spending in the PHS sector would not be a cost, but an investment, as it would generate several benefits in the medium to long term, like an increase in formal jobs. The sector needs to gain visibility; with the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a revalorization of care work, but this did not translate into concrete change.