Statement on International Labour Day


KUALA LUMPUR 1 May, 2010:  The first May Day in 1886 celebrated the successful struggle for an 8 hour work day. Today International Workers’ Day is celebrated as a public holiday throughout the world while most migrant domestic workers are still working about 12-16 hours a day, without a day off. For hundreds of millions of domestic workers however, decent working conditions are 124 years behind.

This International Workers Day, domestic workers in Asia urge their governments to support an International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Work this coming June. Together we must send the message that all workers, whether in a house or a factory, are workers deserving the same rights we fought to establish over a century ago.

Last year, the Malaysian government, through its reply to the ILO had opted to only support a weaker, non-binding international recommendation instead of an ILO Convention on Domestic Work. CARAM Asia a regional network member of NGOs and domestic workers associations across the Asia Pacific region feel that the time has come for governments to rectify an immoral practise that had prevailed for centuries, that is the slavery like treatment of domestic workers!

“In many countries, including Malaysia, they are called “servants” and do not have the rights for a weekly day of, no annual leaves and all other labour rights like how you and I enjoyed. They are only entitled to claim for unpaid wages,” said Cynthia Gabriel, regional coordinator for CARAM Asia.

The new ILO Convention on Domestic Work will be voted in or out by governments, trade unions and employers associations from around the world during the June, 2010 International Labour Conference in Geneva. In the spirit of International Workers Day, it is time to recognise all domestic workers as workers deserving the full and equal protection of the law. This June, it is time for governments, unions and businesses to support a specific legal instrument to protect domestic workers..

For decades, the ILO has recognised the need for a specific convention for domestic workers, but to date has excluded what is the most vulnerable section of the working class. The primarily female and migrant workforce has long been denied decent work hours, fair wages, and regular rest days. In isolated homes, domestic workers are susceptible to forced labour and physical and sexual abuse with little or no channels for redress. On top of these human rights abuses, they are denied the recognition as workers and as such are deprived of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. “Without formal workplaces, we need protection the most but governments won’t protect us, and yet they deny us the right to organise to protect ourselves” expressed Eni Lestari, a migrant domestic worker from Indonesia, “because governments don’t consider us workers, they exclude us from legislation on statutory minimum wages and decent work hours.”

For further information please contact CARAM Asia on behalf of the United for Foreign Domestic Workers Rights (UFDWR).

CARAM Asia is NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is an open network of NGOs and CBOs, consisting of 38 members covering 17 countries in Asia and the Middle East. Visit for more information on CARAM Asia.

The UFDWRs core committee comprises five regional and international civil society organisations that work directly with domestic workers and domestic worker organisations in the Asia Pacific region.

For further information on UFDWR please click on

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