Gender, Migration, & The Work of Care

Research Findings

“Look deep into your hearts”

Convention 189

The first global charter protecting domestic workers’ rights.

Passed by the International Labour Organization on June 16, 2011.

2 years

Spent negotiating the convention.


Country representatives now in the ILO.


Countries have ratified Convention 189.

That’s the message that delegates from more than 180 member states heard from the spokesperson for the International Domestic Workers’ Network in Geneva. It was June 2011, before delegates voted in the first global treaty to protect domestic workers’ rights.

Dr. Jennifer Fish monitored the historic meeting hosted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency that specializes in labour rights and decent work.

The domestic workers’ network asked ILO delegates to think about their own daily reliance on household labour, which helps assure their privileged places in their respective countries, says Fish.

The U.S.-based professor worked with global domestic workers to document their participation in the conferences that culminated in the ILO’s Convention 189. It’s a treaty covering decent work for domestic workers.

Convention 189 has only been ratified by 22 countries. But Fish’s research, in the “Gender, Migration and Work of Care” sub-project “International Organizations,” is exploring how the new policy has acted as an “anchor” for domestic worker organizing globally.

Fish’s work explores how domestic workers shaped history and “won the first international convention of this formerly invisible sector.”

Domestic workers created alliances with non-governmental agencies, staged elaborate art-activist spectacles outside and after meetings, and called on delegates’ personal and moral consciences, she writes.

Since 2011, the International Domestic Network has become a formal federation of 14 domestic workers’ organizations, with 47 affiliates in 43 countries.