Michelle Petrotta, Program Officer, International Labor Rights Forum
Domestic work is, and historically has been, invisible and undervalued. Domestic workers are informal
workers generally unprotected by national labor laws, which results in their vulnerability to unfair and often abusive treatment. The fact that domestic work takes place in a private household behind closed doors, where workers are isolated, with little access to support networks, increases the potential for labor exploitation and abuse. The majority of domestic workers are women and girls.
In some countries, even where laws have been passed providing minimum wages ad conditions such as working hours, leave days, and compulsory registration with labor departments, domestic work is still perceived as informal work where labor rights are often violated. In South Africa the Domestic Worker Sector Law was promulgated in 2002, but government enforcement of the law has been weak due to lack of resources and capacity. The South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) has expressed concern about poor enforcement of the law. The union faces great obstacles organizing due to the private nature of the sector, resulting in 4,500 members out of the estimated one million domestic workers in South Africa. Because workers are isolated, labor rights violations go unnoticed and unreported.