Domestic worker policies on agenda

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Domestic workers when they join 08th International Domestic Workers Day on June 16, 2019. Hong Menea

Government officials have said they are taking the challenges faced by domestic workers on board as they review policies to ensure they receive the same benefits and protection as other employees. This has been applauded by civil society.

The statement was made on Sunday as almost 300 domestic workers, mostly women, government officials and members of civil society marked the eighth International Domestic Workers Day, which was held under the theme Social Protection for Domestic Workers in Cambodia.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Domestic Workers Convention on June 16, 2011. It aims to have domestic work recognised like other work and for those engaged in it across the globe to receive the same right to good working conditions.

Soth Sithon, the director-general of the General Department of Economic Development at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said at the event that more than half of women would be considered “vulnerable” in carrying out domestic work, such as working without pay and without help.

With women’s vulnerability all too apparent, Sithon said everyone should work to resolve the issue, with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs aware of the challenges domestic workers faced and including support in their policies.

“I would like the domestic work sector to be paid full attention by all relevant parties. I will put the concerns of women in all parts of the strategic plan in order to promote gender equality."

“I also want domestic workers to be included in the formal employment system and receive the same social protection as other workers,” Sithon said.

Preparations ‘underway’

Pol Chan Dara of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said his ministry continued to gather input from all relevant parties as policies to support domestic workers and improve their conditions were prepared.

“In cooperation with the ILO, the Ministry of Labour has held many discussions and workshops to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of Convention 189 on Domestic Workers, ” he said.

The Ministry has also collaborated with other organisations to gather recommendations for the draft “Prakas on the Working Conditions of Domestic Workers”.

In May 2018, the Ministry of Labour issued a prakas regarding working conditions for domestic workers.

This requires employers to ensure proper working conditions for domestic workers, with penalties to be imposed on any who fail to meet the ministry’s requirements.

The prakas was issued after Prime Minister Hun Sen said domestic workers faced difficulties and called on employers to show them respect.

Von Samphous, the manager of the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network which is a member of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy (IDEA) labour group, said research showed there were around 240,000 domestic workers in Cambodia in 2012.

This showed that the number of domestic workers was increasing, requiring the focus of the relevant ministries as she had observed that they still faced challenges.

“Working conditions do not appear to have greatly improved. Some people do not dare speak out, especially domestic workers who have to stay with their employers for 24 hours a day as some homes are closed off and have security cameras or even guards."

“They have to work until their employers close their eyes before they can take a rest,” Samphous told The Post on Sunday.

She said some had to wait for their employers to return home at night, which ate into their personal time, while a lack of adequate rest and food led to work-related accidents and illness.

Sieng Mao, 39, who has been a domestic worker since 1996, said around 50 per cent of domestic workers had good conditions if their employers knew the law, while the other half worked in difficult conditions, receiving no protection and having their rights violated.

As a domestic worker for more than two decades, she demanded the same protection, rights and benefits as other workers, she said.