ILO C189


The ILO Convention on Migrant Domestic Workers (C189) is the result of a long process and the continuous efforts of several NGOs and labour worker unions, and is not a top-down convention coming from ILO. 1

The Domestic Workers Convention sets new labour standards for domestic workers, such as rest hours, minimum wage, protective measures. It has been ratified by 35 countries. For more information, click here.

So far, 35 countries of the 187 member states of the ILO, have ratified the convention, as illustrated in the map below.

Source: ILO (2021). Ratifications of C189 - Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). Accessed on November 18, 2021 at


The challenges for countries to ratifying and implementing the ILO C189 are of economic, social and legal nature.

Regarding the economic dimension, those employing migrant domestic workers often have little interest in implementing the convention as they want to keep the costs low and are dependent on their services as the state cannot provide care services under a universal guarantee. 1

The work of domestic workers is often not recognized as work by society (particularly in Asia, Africa and the MENA region 1) which can be linked to the legal dimension of the challenges: as migrant domestic workers are not considered workers in several countries, their rights cannot be protected. Work at home is a 'legal gray zone', that becomes particularly accentuated when visas are tied to a specific employer.² According to experts, there has been a lot of resistance in ratifying the Convention because the people supposed to ratify the Convention, make themselves use of MDW and therefore have little interest in promoting and advancing their rights.²

A frequently mentioned challenge is the organization of MDW and employers which is necessary to negotiate and improve the MDW's rights. Especially because many of the personal and household services are undeclared (in Europe, f.i. 90%), which makes it difficult to reach these populations. Often migrant domestic workers create their own informal communities and in some countries they are unified in migrant organizations. However, the organization in form of a union of migrant domestic workers remains limited due to the high prevalence of informality of the MDWs work and the diversity of people concerned. Organizations such as the IDWF and the UNI Global Union play a major role in organizing these groups of migrant domestic workers.²

The example of Qatar shows how some moments become strategic when advocating for the rights of migrant domestic workers. As Qatar will host FIFA, people have boycotted the government over the treatment of migrants, so they have removed the legal requirement of a no-objection certificate. This certificate is required for MDWs if they want to change employers and can only be issued by the employer, making them dependent and more vulnerable.³ However, Amnesty International shows, as can be seen in the images below, that these changes have not yet been as effective as promised.

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Several stakeholders are advocating for the ratification and implementation of the ILO Convention 189. Some of their activities are:

  • Use of social media to raise awareness

  • Education through information, f.i. workshops on gender-based violence

  • Advocating and lobbying to influence policies

  • Build Unions among MDWs to advocate for global movement

  • Apply strategies tailored to a specific context (regional and sub-regional strategies) 1 :

    • Asia on climate justice;

    • Latin America and Caribbean on racial justice;

    • Africa on legitimization of work (70% of the economy is informal).1


  1. International Domestic Workers Federation (2021, November 15). Personal interview.
  2. UNI Global Union (2021, November 12). Personal interview.
  3. Anonymous interviewee.