UNU-GCM hosts Open Forum on Migrant Domestic Workers

  • 2015•02•20     Barcelona, Spain

    UNU-GCM held its third Open Forum event on Thursday 19th February. It brought together a group of experts to discuss the impact of the Domestic Workers Convention on female migrants. Sharing the round table were (in alphabetical order): Javier Enrich, the CEO of HomeStaff, a company specializing in matching domestic workers with employees; Raquel Gil Eiroa of the General Workers Union, with a background in supporting migrant worker rights; Anais Herrera, a migrant domestic worker from Venezuela, working in Barcelona since 2007; and Joaquín Nieto, the director of the office of the International Labour Organization in Spain. The speakers used their time to respond to some key questions from their particular perspectives. What does it mean to be a migrant domestic worker? What is the meaning of the Domestic Workers Convention for migrant domestic workers? What is the proper role of States in ensuring the welfare of domestic workers from overseas?

    Raquel Gil Eiroa noted that it is important, when reading the articles of the Domestic Workers Convention, to recognize that these articles are there because they describe privations that really exist and are widespread among the domestic working population worldwide. Indeed, Joaquín Nieto noted that while for the most part they represent a restatement of rights found in other documents, the Domestic Workers Convention plays a key role in enabling a debate on the rights of domestic workers, including in countries which have not yet ratified the Convention. It became clear from all of the speakers that there is a need for a cultural shift, so that the crucial importance of domestic work for households, but also for society in general, is recognized – indeed, as Anias Herrera put it, domestic workers are vital ‘pillars’ for the households in which they work. For Javier Enrich, this would only be possible through a professionalization of the sector. The last word should go to Anais Herrera, however, who noted that all workers need to feel valued in their work. This is not just for domestic workers, but, she emphasized, for all workers. She hoped that the Domestic Workers Convention could help to ensure good working conditions in a sector that is often undervalued.