Two years since the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, Middle East fails the test.
Though the Middle East employs the highest number of domestic workers, it has failed to adopt legal reforms to protect their rights, according to international workers’ rights.
In a press statement released by the Human Rights Watch group, Nisha Varia, a senior women’s rights researcher said: “Even though the Middle East and North Africa are home to some of the worst abuses against domestic workers, the pace of legal reforms in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Lebanon has dragged on for years with little to show.
“And even the proposed reforms fall short of international standards and the comprehensive protections other countries are implementing.”
The analysis was made based on a report released by the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Human Rights Watch that tracked the progress of the Domestic Workers Convention – a treaty that was adopted in 2011 to provide domestic workers the same basic rights as other workers.
How did countries fare
According to the report titled “Claiming Rights: Domestic Workers’ Movements and Global Advances for Labor Reform”, countries in Latin America have shown improvement in the legal protections for their domestic workers in the past two years. However, most countries in the Middle East have still to include domestic workers in their labour laws. Moreover, not one country in the region has ratified the treaty.
The ten countries that have ratified the Domestic Workers Convention to date include: Uruguay, Philippines, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Italy, Bolivia, Paraguay, South Africa, Guyana, and Germany. Others are in the process of completing the ratification.
Qatar’s draft law
According to statistics from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are about 53 million domestic workers in the world, and a majority of them are females, including migrants. From these, 30% are employed in countries that exclude domestic workers from national labour laws; Qatar is one such country.
Some of the rights that workers are denied in these countries include requirements for weekly rest days, limits to hours of work, minimum wage coverage, and overtime pay.
However, last month, a draft law on domestic workers is supposed to have been submitted to the Qatari Cabinet. The law is considered to be one of ‘the best laws’ in the GCC region, and is based on international work standards implemented by the ILO Convention.