The Road to Equal Protection for Domestic WorkersBy Valeria Uribe | Thu, 02/25/2021 - 09:16
Domestic workers provide essential support to households across the world. As contributors to childcare, food preparation and cleaning for families, they are part of the motor that keeps households running. Despite their contributions and the fact that many families describe domestic workers as being family members, the working conditions they face show their rights are often overlooked. It’s as if they’re almost invisible.
Mexico has approximately 2.3 million domestic workers, of which 94.8 percent are women. According to the National Discrimination Survey (ENADIS-2018), one out of 10 economically active women is a domestic worker. Despite this sector employing such a large number of people, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), only 1 percent of Mexican domestic workers has a written contract with their employer and a meager 3 percent receives insurance coverage through their employer. Until the December 2018 ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court requiring the Mexican Social Security System (IMSS) to launch a six-month pilot program for domestic workers to enroll in the social security system, these workers were excluded from social security benefits, including access to healthcare and pensions. The pilot program has since been launched, giving Mexican domestic workers a new opportunity to receive labor protections similar to those afforded to other workers under the law.
A recent report published by the International Labor Organization (ILO), “Results of the Pilot Test to Include Domestic Workers in IMSS,” documented that through September, a total of 25,369 domestics workers from 32 Mexican States had registered with the social security system. Of those, 13 percent work in Mexico City, 10 percent in the State of Mexico, 6 percent in Jalisco and 5.4 percent in Sonora. Although this shows that there is increasing awareness in the registration process, only 1 percent of domestic workers nationwide have enrolled in the social security system, demonstrating the need to improve the process to achieve greater coverage. Recommendations from the ILO to the government of Mexico after the initial pilot phase include the following: “i) Guarantee equal treatment of these workers in accordance with ILO Convention 189 regarding domestic workers; ii) improve communication among the different government agencies; iii) design medium-term communication plans that include resources and various strategies; iv) introduce incentives and innovative practices in order to enhance coverage; as well as v) implement nontraditional fiscal mechanisms that involve inter-institutional coordination.”
In a second phase of the pilot program, which began this year, IMSS has simplified the enrollment and payment processes, providing online registration options for domestic workers and their employers. While there have been significant improvements for domestic workers in Mexico, the road to equal protection remains a winding one, requiring time and energy from both employers and domestic workers to guarantee their rights.
To provide equal protections for domestic workers, the following needs to happen: (1) employers must be aware of their obligations; (2) employees must know what they are entitled to by law and feel empowered to advocate for that; and (3) legislation should be proposed to improve the unique working conditions faced by domestic workers.
Workers and employers should be aware of their respective responsibilities in protecting labor rights and be prepared to take action to defend those rights and prevent exploitation in the workplace. Domestic workers walk a fine line between being a part of a family and being an employee, but this position in the Mexican household should not be used to justify unfair treatment, low wages and limited access to social security that employees have the right to receive. It is the responsibility of every employer of a domestic worker to ensure that the legal requirements mandated by the new legislation are adhered to. We must do what is right to ensure that our homes are sites of dignified work and that domestic workers are recognized for their significant contributions through fair and decent working conditions.
Additional information on the social security registration process can be found here: