The workers, mostly women from poor families, need better protection both in their home country and abroad
Vietnamese domestic workers are not protected within the country and in foreign labor markets, becoming extremely vulnerable to abuse, according to a new report issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
“Key factors driving growth in the domestic work sector within Vietnam are the rapidly growing middle-class and limited healthcare services,” Gyorgy Sziraczki, director of ILO Country Office for Vietnam, said in an analysis to mark the International Domestic Workers’ Day on June 16.
“This growth at the national level has also resulted in increased awareness of opportunities for migrants to undertake domestic work abroad, building on strong existing interest in diverse destinations, such as Macau, Taiwan and Cyprus,” he said.
Domestic workers are especially vulnerable to abuse compared with other workers employed in other sectors, ILO said.
Factors contributing to this vulnerability include the highly gendered nature of domestic work, and the prevalence of live-in work arrangements which can increase dependence and abuse, and limit access to family, support services and unions that protect and provide for domestic workers’ needs, he said.
The loss of connection with family is a particular issue keenly felt by many Vietnamese migrant domestic workers given that many Vietnamese workers are women with children and who travel overseas for the sole purpose of working to support their family.
In recent years women have made up approximately 30 percent of all Vietnamese overseas migrant workers, according to ILO.
Domestic workers, especially those abroad, are regularly excluded from workplace laws or afforded lesser protections than other workers, including in Taiwan, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
For example, under Saudi Arabian law their minimum rest period is only nine hours per day and they are required to follow their employer’s orders at all times.
ILO found that in 2013 in Asia and the Pacific, 61 percent of domestic workers were excluded from labor law coverage, and the rate was 99 percent in the Middle East.
Some neighboring countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia have all, at various time, suspended their migrant domestic workers from traveling to certain destinations due to evidence of maltreatment, he said.
Vietnam needs to research the experiences of migrant domestic workers at all stages of the migration cycle to inform future policies and bilateral negotiations, according to ILO.
It will also be increasingly important that both domestic workers and recruitment agencies are equipped to engage with emerging labor markets and address specific sectoral challenges, it said.