Domestic workers

Domestic workers also have rights

“I have many Thai domestic friends who are in their 50s and 60s. They have been working since they were in their late teens or early twenties. It’s their job. They have jobs and employers like other workers. But the government excluded domestic workers from receiving social security benefits,” said Champa, a migrant domestic worker in Thailand.

Domestic workers play a vital role in the lives of many families in Thailand where we depend on them to cook, clean, drive our cars, maintain our gardens, and look after our children and elderly. Meanwhile, the demand for domestic workers will likely increase with Thailand’s rapidly aging population. As Thailand’s economy evolves and offers more education and better-paying job opportunities to its nationals, migrant workers, mostly women, are stepping in to play this essential caretaking role.

Unfortunately, in Thailand, domestic workers, especially migrants, are still largely excluded from important labor protections. We therefore call for the recognition of domestic work as work, for the working conditions of domestic workers to be decent and for this group of workers to enjoy the same rights and protections, including social security, as others. workers.

One of the key dimensions of decent work is access to social security, which is still far from being a reality for most domestic workers. In fact, data shows that nearly 80% of domestic workers in Thailand employed directly by households are not registered with the Social Security Fund.

One of the main impacts of such an obstacle is that domestic workers, who are the majority, cannot benefit from paid maternity leave. They must choose between working or quitting their job to care for their newborn and losing an important source of income.

Similarly to paid sick leave or income replacement for injury or illness, what should an employer do if a worker is injured while working in their household? Should the employer let the worker go and leave them with no income or assume what could be long-term child support? Such a difficult choice should not be left to households.

The problem is that the current system in Thailand excludes domestic workers from the mandatory provisions of the Social Security Act (Article 33), which means that employers cannot register their workers. The only option is for domestic workers to enroll themselves in the voluntary scheme (Article 40). There are various reasons why this is not an optimal solution. Firstly, Article 40 provides a lower scope and level of protection, which does not include, for example, accidents at work, maternity and pensions. Secondly, according to this mechanism, only the worker must contribute, thus freeing the employer from all responsibility. Finally, Article 40 is not available for migrant domestic workers, which means that a large majority of domestic workers are completely excluded from any access to social security, except for the voluntary health insurance scheme. immigrants.

An upcoming policy review produced under the Joint United Nations Program on Social Protection for All, led by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Entity United Nations for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) shows that there is still a long way to go before domestic workers have the same social security rights as other workers. However, as we see in other parts of the world such as Malaysia and the Philippines, the situation is changing and it is also possible to witness in Thailand a growing consensus on the need to change this situation.

A recent survey showed that employers of domestic workers are increasingly open to the idea of ​​contributing to social security. We believe it is time to seriously consider removing existing barriers to the participation of domestic workers in this regard.

In Thailand, Ministerial Regulation 14, annexed to the Labor Protection Act, excludes domestic workers from a series of important protections. Very positively, the Royal Thai Government is in the process of reviewing these regulations, with the aim of increasing the rights of domestic workers, such as minimum wages and regulated working hours.

Extending social protection to domestic workers, while difficult, will benefit Thai society and economy. Not only is social protection one of the pillars of decent work, but it will also facilitate the sector’s transition to the formal economy. Formalizing domestic work and providing equal protection to domestic workers will lead to greater productivity and retention, which is also in the interest of employers.

Placement of domestic workers under the mandatory provisions of the Social Security Law Article 33 will open participation to migrant workers. With full protection, workers will have more incentive to migrate regularly, but it will also create fair competition between Thai and migrant workers, as they will have the same rights as well as the same obligations.

By putting the rights of domestic workers at the forefront, we will see the benefits of a more equitable and sustainable society, where no one is left behind.