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Domestic Workers ? An Equal Valued and Dignified Job

Domestic worker is considered as an undervalued and indignity job. Domestic workers suffer from prejudice on account of their frequent exclusion from the coverage labour legislation due to its private nature of work and obstacles they face in exercising freedom of association, not to mention the clumsy character of household helper in the TV soap dramas presenting servants who do any things when they are told to. The domestic workers eventually consider themselves inferior or unregulated to claim for any rights or welfare.

On the contrary, the job of the domestic workers is an equal valued and dignified one. It is the work of those who sacrifice and tolerate as the household work never ends. The domestic work is one of the honest works but it has never been deemed so. It?s time for the people in the society to join and claim for the value and dignity for the domestic workers.

Function of Domestic Workers

    • Cleaning the house
    • Washing
    • Ironing
    • Cooking
    • Accompanying the female head of the household for grocery
    • Taking care of children
    • Taking care of elderly and people with disabilities
    • Taking care of other household members
    • Tending to pets
    • Driving and washing car
    • Gardening
    • Other tasks as ordered by the employers such as family business and watching the house.  From the study, FCD found that house watching is one of the important tasks required by the employer as there are children and elderly as well as pets in the household and mail receiving.  The employer sees that this kind of work does not need any labour. However, watching is a kind of work and it takes away the opportunity of the workers especially the child workers to learn, study and develop their skills in their rest period.

Devoted Job

1. Hours of Work
As mentioned earlier, the domestic work is to be done on regular basis and continuous, upon FCD?s case study and assistance, its statistics are similar to the study of ?The Mekong Challenge ? Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked? by the ILO and Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research that hours of work of domestic workers are not subject to 8 hours like other workers. Instead, their hours of work range 12-15 hours which half of them work more than 14 hours.

2. Hazardous work
Many functions of domestic work involve the workers with chemical cleansing substance, tools and electrical appliances and there are risks to use before proper knowledge is provided.

  1. 1. Washing Domestic workers tend to chemical cleansing substance such as floor cleansing, toilet liquid cleaner and caustic soda. In case of large household, the domestic workers have to clean more than 1 house and they often touch these chemical substances. They are at hi-risk from these dangers and can easily be affected from the use.

  2. 2. Cleaning
     Domestic workers are subject to clean in every corner of the house. According to FCD?s study, 1 employer has a 5-storey house. The domestic worker has to clean every floor and every piece of glass window. There is a chance for the worker falling from the unreachable windows.

  3. 3. Electrical Appliances
     Domestic workers have to prepare food, wash and iron clothes and clean the house. There functions involve them with the electrical appliances such as washing machine, iron, vacuums, electric ovens, microwaves, blender and power lawnmower. In order to safely use these appliances, demonstration, suggestion and caution should be provided. From FCD?s study, most of domestic workers do not know how to use these appliances and they cause accidents and lost to the domestic workers as well as to the employers.

  4. 4. Tending to pets
     If employers have pets, the domestic workers have to tend their pets including feeding, walking and bathing. In case of newcomer, the domestic worker is not familiar with the pets, they can easily get bite. Even working for a long time, some pets are nervous when restrained with each other in a limit area, they may hurt the domestic workers.

Physical and Mental Affected Long period of work, no period of time provided for rest and 24-hour ready at service affect the domestic workers? physical and mental health. It is difficult for live-in domestic workers to define the work from the privacy. The employers have fully control of their life. From FCD?s experience, domestic worker is a worker employed in a private household, difficult to search, and vulnerable to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Such cases are common to the public


    1. Foundation for Child Development?s Study of ?Life of Child Domestic Workers?
    2. Foundation for Child Development?s Study of ?Format and Service of Service Providing Units to Domestic Workers in Bangkok?
    3. The ILO and Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research?s Study of ?The Mekong Challenge ? Underpaid, Overworked and Overlooked?
    4. Chantana Charoensak, Thammasat University, Thesis of ?Guideline of Protection for Woman Domestic Workers?
    5. Supatra Jitrsue, Ramkhamhaeng University, Thesis of ?Legal Measures for Labour Protection in Case of Woman and Child Domestic Workers?

      Kanokwan Moratsatien
      The Child Labour Project, FCD
      September 2007


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