Press Centre

Ireland’s Hidden Workforce: 10,000 Domestic Workers Deserve Rights and Recognition

MEDIA RELEASE: 07.05.2013

10000 domestic workers work in private homes across Ireland as childminders, carers, cleaners and cooks. Their work is vital to Ireland’s economic recovery, but many face daily exploitation and abuse: paid below minimum wage, working long hours, on call 24/7, having no privacy, being threatened and harassed by employers, enduring physical and psychological abuse. The many migrant women working in this sector in Ireland are particularly vulnerable.

Domestic work, referred to as the ‘hidden sector’, is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors worldwide. The sector has high reports of modern-day slavery and child labour.

“In Ireland, we have seen an increase in cases of slavery and extreme exploitation in this sector. Time and time again we’ve had cases of people being trafficked here for domestic work; shockingly, several of these cases have involved embassies in Dublin,” says Aoife Smith of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. “The number of au pairs contacting us with serious issues has also increased in the recession – au pairs are supposed to be here on a cultural exchange but they’re being used as cheap, unregulated childcare.”

Worldwide, domestic workers are campaigning for governments to ratify the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Convention is a landmark in the 63 year-long struggle to get recognition of rights for domestic workers, but although Ireland is pushing ratification in Europe as part of the EU Presidency, the Government has yet to commit to ratifying the Convention in Ireland.

Mariaam Bhatti of the Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) says: “Domestic workers are integral to the economic structure and the well-being of Irish society, yet so many of us suffer physical, emotional and psychological abuse on a daily basis. Our vital work is undervalued, unrecognised and underpaid.”

Ms Bhatti concluded, “We have rights. We want our dignity. We want the Government to ratify the Convention before the EU Presidency ends; we want them to acknowledge that domestic work IS work, like any other work.

May 1-7 is Domestic Workers Action Week


Notes for Editors:

ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work

MRCI Domestic Workers Action Group Survey, 2010

The domestic work sector holds the second largest percentage of complaints made to MRCI. A 2010 DWAG research survey shows:

40% of domestic workers surveyed do not have an employment contract

38% are paid under the minimum wage (with severe cases as lo w as €2 per hour)

42% do not receive payslips

Two-thirds of those surveyed experienced exploitations as a domestic worker in Ireland

30% work Sundays and Bank holidays without extra pay or a day off.

44% raised a complaint with their employer about their unfair treatment and long working hours but their concern was ignored and nothing changed.