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Labour Minister puts spotlight on the “invisible” sector of domestic workers

by lloyd last modified 2013-10-30 13:18

30 October 2013

Often employed without clear terms of employment, unregistered and excluded from the scope of labour legislation, deplorable working conditions, labour exploitation and human rights abuses these are some major problems facing domestic workers. To help address this anomaly South Africa’s Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant will this weekend host the first domestic workers’ Public Participation Programme.

Oliphant said in Geneva this week ahead of the Public Participation Programme that it was critical for the domestic workers, working in a sector often “invisible” behind the doors of private households and unprotected from abuse - to organise themselves so that they will have a bigger and much more significant voice and they could fight for their rights as a collective.

“We have heard the cries of our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. We realise that domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to all sort of abuses. During the summit, we want to use the opportunity to engage them on their rights in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment, Labour Relations as well as the Unemployment Insurance Act.

“In our engagements, this is an area that was identified as lacking and therefore we are responding to the need as identified by the workers themselves,” Oliphant said.

The Public Participation Programme will also be used to help workers on matters regarding claims for the unemployment insurance fund, compensation fund and worker registration on the department’s Employment Services for South Africa (Essa) among others.

The Domestic workers Public Participation Programme will be held on 2 November 2013 at the Mandela Park Stadium in Khayelitsha, Western Cape. It will start at 10am. Oliphant plans to host similar gathering across the country in the near future.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) came into force in September 2013, extending basic labour rights to domestic workers around the globe. The adoption of the Convention represents a key milestone on the path to the realization of decent work for domestic workers.

Recent figures by the ILO estimated that there are at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers, and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries. The organisation said the number adds to an estimated 10.5 million children worldwide – most of them under age – working as domestic workers in people’s homes. 83 per cent of domestic workers are women.

The ILO said 10 member States (South Africa, Bolivia, Germany, Guyana, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, and Uruguay) have ratified the Convention. The Convention provides for new laws or regulations geared towards improving domestic workers’ labour and social rights.

·          Media is invited to attend the Domestic workers Public Participation Programme in which Oliphant will interact with the workers.

Venue: Mandela Park Stadium, Khayelitsha.

Time: 10am.

For more information on the Domestic Workers Public Participation Programme contact: Labour Ministry’s Musa Zondi at 0829018081 or email


Candice van Reenen

083 243 3353 or

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