European Parliament Votes for Declared Domestic Workers

Employment and Social Affairs

On Thursday, the European Parliament approved – by 279 votes to 105 – a resolution in favour of granting official status to domestic workers and carers in the EU.

Members of the Parliament called upon Member States to consider incentives encouraging the use of declared domestic workers, such as the “service vouchers” scheme in Belgium and the “universal service employment cheque (CESU)” in France.

Besides these successful models, described as having a positive impacts on the social and labour conditions of workers in this sector by the MEPs, they also asked EU member states to establish bilateral agreements and visa arrangements with those states where domestic workers and carers to the EU.

The text also demands adequate inspection methods to stop these crimes against domestic workers, such as exploitation, forced labour and human trafficking.

Who are Domestic workers?

Domestic workers are persons engaged in household services such as childcare, care of the elderly or housekeeping – via a formal or informal employment relationship. They can be nationals of the country or migrants, and can have varied working conditions, involving living within or outside the household.

Although many are working legally, this is not always the case. Quite often, domestic workers endure low pay, irregular residence and employment conditions, no social security or benefits, no access to childcare facilities for their own children and limited time off work.

Domestic workers and carers enable us to follow our careers, and enjoy our social lives. We entrust them with our homes, our children, our parents. But, they are invisible, undeclared, victims of insecurity and social exclusion. Also, most are women, working long hours with no days off, without medical cover or pension plans”, said Greek rapporteur from GUE/NGL party, Kostadinka Kuneva.

The demand for caring and cleaning work is increasing. Traditionally, this role has been performed by women and to some extent by welfare services, but “our ageing population and the fact that women are entering the labour market means that we have an ever greater need for them. Yet EU member states continue to allow them to work in the grey economy“, Kostadinka Kuneva added.

Professionalization of domestic work is essential to grant them social protection

Even though initiatives in various EU Member States, domestic workers do not always receive protection by national labour laws and have limited opportunities to obtain ‘decent work’.

Therefore, the professionalization of domestic work would turn precarious and undeclared female work into recognized jobs. It would also give domestic workers and carers social protection rights.

Concretely, the text of the recommendation calls for the inclusion of  domestic workers and carers  in all national labour, healthcare, social care and anti-discrimination laws, as well as for the possibility to join trade unions.

Furthermore, it requires EU Member States to guarantee wider access to affordable quality care in order to reduce incentives to hire carers illegally and offer viable and legal career alternatives for these domestic workers in social care services.

They also urged the EU Commission to submit a framework for recognition of the status of non-professional carers, intended to offer them remuneration and social protection during the time they perform the care tasks.

Fighting crimes against domestic workers

Since the majority of domestic workers and carers are migrant women in an irregular situation, the European Parliament pointed out how their social and cultural inclusion is facilitated by integrating them into the labour market.

Live-in workers or immigrants are particularly vulnerable to discrimination. Some are entitled to stay in the host country but they do not have the right to work. Sometimes, they have no right to stay at all. Those in an irregular situation employed in domestic work are particularly at risk of exploitation and abuse, even sexual abuse.

Therefore, with this resolution, the European Parliament also aims at recognizing their work as “real” jobs, so to discourage ill treatment, forced labour and human trafficking.

But only adequate inspection methods and penalties can stop such crimes against domestic workers, the European Parliamentarians stressed.

For more information on Carers and Domestic Workers, read “CarerSupport – Integrated platform for informal carers’ training, tele-consulting and collaboration.

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