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Labour Rights and Conditions of Work for Domestic Workers: A Focus on the Experiences of Adult Female Live-in Paid Domestic Workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Domestic services engage millions of domestic workers throughout the world – the majority of whom are women and girls. Regardless of their number, this group of workers are usually invisible; hidden behind doors at the home of their employers. In this regard, the conditions of work for domestic workers has been an issue of concern as early as 1948 with the adoption of a resolution by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which was followed by the adoption of another resolution in 1965 that urged member states to set minimum living standards and develop regulations in order to protect the rights of workers engaged in personal services. To date there is no instrument (Convention and/or Recommendation) by the ILO that specifically deals with domestic workers and this group of workers have been mostly excluded from national labour legislation worldwide.

Personal services workers (who work in the home of their private employers) in Ethiopia are one of the categories excluded from the principal source of labour law in the country, which is Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003. Nevertheless, for the past few years the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has been in the process of developing a regulation that is applicable to govern conditions of work that arise from contracts for personal services.

This paper attempts to explore, understand and analyse labour rights and conditions of work for adult female live-in paid domestic workers in Addis Ababa. It is hoped that this will also contribute towards getting a review of the draft regulation underway, on the assumption that the findings reach the relevant stakeholders. The questions addressed are: what are the conditions of work for adult female live-in paid domestic workers in Addis Ababa? What labour rights do adult female live-in paid domestic workers experience and what labour rights are abused? What kinds of procedures and support structures should be put in place to meet their labour rights? This piece of research is a qualitative study, which is mainly based on one to one interviews with seven adult female live-in paid domestic workers in Addis Ababa. It also draws on a review of the contents of relevant government regulations.

The results confirm exploitative conditions of work similar to documented experiences of domestic workers worldwide. However, the findings draw attention to the nature of customary duties of live-in domestic workers’, i.e. ‘general housework’, which are behind the exploitative conditions of work experienced. In addition, the findings suggest that the draft regulation that is being proposed needs to consider the experiences of live-in domestic workers in relation to: job descriptions; hours of work a day, meal intervals, leave periods (weekly, annual and maternal); freedom of movement; freedom of association; privacy; food and accommodation; and the assignment of responsible bodies and grievance procedures. In addition, the need for awareness-raising for both employers and workers is also highlighted.


Elsa Biadegilegn Teklehymanot 2009

Read a short paper drawn this thesis here.

Permanent link to this article: http://kimmagedsc.ie/dissertation/labour-rights-domestic-workers-ethiopia/