ILO study recommends an end to the gender wage gap and that all women have equal access to employment opportunities

By Laxman Datt Pant

ILO study recommends an end to the gender wage gap and that all women have equal access to employment opportunities

Observing that, despite their significant contribution to the functioning of households and labor markets, women domestic workers in Nepal continue to face multiple socio-economic impacts, a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends that the gender wage gap must be ended and it should be ensured that all women have equal access to employment opportunities.

A report titled ‘Socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and beyond on women domestic workers in Nepal’ issued by the ILO Nepal on 8 February calls for an effective policy to be introduced to end the gender wage gap and implement measures to value, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. The study also recommends the adoption of a policy to enhance the socio-economic reintegration of returnee women migrant workers to the country through social justice measures.

Among the major recommendations made within the report are ensuring the effective implementation of laws on the minimum wage, expediting the development of regulation and code of conduct for both domestic workers and their employers, implementing laws on sexual harassment in the workplace,  ratifying ILO convention 190, extending labor protection in national law to domestic workers and establishing tripartite committees comprised of employer, employee and local government representatives at local level to address the issues and grievances of domestic workers.

  • While some domestic workers were found to have been excluded from relief support offered by the municipalities, many domestic workers were not aware of the procedure to claim relief at the local level
  • During the lockdown, most domestic workers were confined to their homes, relying on social security, relief, and support from their own social networks
  • The children of domestic workers have been excluded from online classes due to the lack of essential equipment such as laptops, mobile phones, and access to the internet
  • 85% of domestic workers have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are now unemployed
  • Domestic workers were unable to access menstrual hygiene products, contraceptives, and medicines due to the lockdown
  • Many domestic workers lost their jobs and therefore also their rented living space and have been unable to find a safe alternative during the lockdown
  • In the absence of a formal agreement between the employer and domestic workers, the latter were unable to claim their wages
  • Article 20 of ILO Recommendation No. 201 on Domestic Workers considers that domestic workers are entitled to social security to which both workers and employers should contribute
  • Social security should be available for domestic workers regardless of whether they work for multiple employers or not and whether they are migrant workers or not
  • Live-in domestic workers should be provided with sufficient safety-related information
  • Equally important is providing financial literacy training to domestic workers for their economic empowerment enabling them to plan for savings and other investments

ILO Convention 189 clearly states that domestic workers are real workers and that they are not “members of the family”, servants or second-workers and are therefore entitled to enjoy the same fundamental labor rights and guarantees as those available to other workers. However, domestic workers in Nepal are not recognized as formal workers and, as such, the report states that as they are not given contracts of employment, their employers are exempt from any legal obligations in respect of the laws concerning the rights of domestic workers.

Recognizing that domestic work is often carried out in a very private environment with little external monitoring and accessibility, the report recommends that domestic workers are given stronger rights and recognized as workers in their own right in order to help to combat gender-based discrimination. It also identified mental health issues as being a major challenge faced by domestic workers and recommended serious consideration be given to providing stress management and psychosocial counseling.

Revealing that there is a lack of evidence to determine the actual number of domestic workers as well as their concerns and needs, the report recommends extensive research is undertaken in these areas to promote advocacy and better inform legislation and policies.