n Ume Laila Azhar The government, worker and employer delegates at the 100th annual Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on June 16 adopted a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. Conference delegates adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions and the accompanying recommendation by a vote of 434 to 8, with 42 abstentions. The ILO is the only tripartite organisation of the UN, and each of its 183 member states is represented by two government delegates, and one employer and one worker delegate, with an independent vote. The two standards will be the 189th Convention and the supplementing 201st recommendation adopted by the Labour Organisation, since it was created in 1919. The Convention is an international treaty that is binding on member states that ratify it, while the recommendation provides more detailed guidance on how to apply it (the Convention). The new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world, who care for families and households, must have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers: Reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including among others freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries place the number of domestic workers at a minimum of 53 million, but experts say that there could be 100 million in the world, considering that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered. In developing countries, they make up at least 4 to 12 percent of wage employment. Around 83 percent of these workers are women or girls and many are migrant workers. The Convention defines domestic work, as work performed in or for a household or households. While the new instruments cover all domestic workers, they provide for special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks relative to their peers, among others. Bringing the domestic workers into the fold of our values is a strong move, for them and for all workers who aspire to decent work, but it also has strong implications for migration and, of course, for gender equality. The new Convention say: Domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible, and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and work, and to other abuses of human rights. An effective and binding standard is required to provide decent work to domestic workers, a clear framework to guide governments, employers and workers brining the domestic workers under the social security net and recognition as workers. This collective responsibility to provide domestic workers with what they lack most: Recognition as workers; and respect and dignity as human beings. The adoption of the new standards is the result of a decision taken in March 2008 by the ILO governing body to place the elaboration of an instrument on the agenda of the conference. In 2010, the conference held its first discussion and decided to proceed with the drafting of a Convention supplemented by a recommendation. n The writer is a Development Manager. Email: laila.azhar@gmail.com