KINGSTON — Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, has said that the trend of excluding domestic care workers from social and labour protection, and their exposure to exploitation and poor wages, must be reversed.
She was speaking at a 2-day global forum on ‘Migrant Domestic Workers at the Interface of Migration and Development: Action to Expand Good Practice”, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Wednesday September 7.
The State Minister, who is in charge of Diaspora affairs, said Jamaica plans to deal with the issues, while developing a national policy and plan of action on international migration and development.
Senator Malahoo Forte noted that while Jamaica has not yet ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) convention on decent work for domestic care workers, it is under review. She also noted that a national employment policy is being pursued by the Ministry of Labour and Social security, and should be completed in 2013.
The ILO recently adopted the convention on domestic workers, which includes international standards to improve the working conditions of domestic care workers worldwide, estimated to be between 53 million and 100 million. Some 83 per cent of these workers are women, and 92 per cent are living and working in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Senator Malahoo Forte also highlighted the inclusion of household workers as a category under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) labour regime’s free movement policy as a positive development in the region, as it recognizes the need to create opportunities for their engagement in gainful economic activity.
She also pointed to the significant contribution of domestic care workers to the communities in which they live, including those who contribute through their remittances.
The forum was organised by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in collaboration with UN Women (United Nations’ Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It is expected to develop strategies to protect domestic workers’ rights, create a gender-sensitive checklist and provide recognition and labour and social protection for these workers.
The conference, which has attracted participants from the Caribbean, Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, will also hammer out guidelines for employment contracts for domestic workers, and is a lead up to the concluding debate of the 2011 Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) to be hosted later this year.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter