Regulating domestic work in Ghana key for development – Study

Patience Gbeze, GNA  

Accra, June 27, GNA –
A research by Migrating out of Poverty team at the Centre for Migration Studies
(CMS), University of Ghana, has called for five policy recommendations to
regulate and enhance the positive contributions of migration for domestic work.

The research on
“Migration for Domestic Work in Ghana: Implications for Poverty Reduction”,
expressed the need for development through promoting rural and broad-based
regional progress to reduce spatial inequalities.

According to the study
such policies must promote small and medium-sized towns across Ghana as
alternative centres to rural-urban migrants.  

It also called for
scaling up public education on the rights of migrant domestic workers and
strengthen relevant state agencies both financially and technically to
implement international and national laws on the protection of migrants working
in domestic service. 

“Institute and enforce
legal instruments to regulate wages and work conditions in the informal sector,
including the domestic work sector. The Ministry of Employment and Labour
Relations and the Labour Department must be strengthened to monitor the
activities and operations of recruitment agencies effectively.

“Facilitate the
ratification of International Labour organisation (ILO) Convention 189 on
Decent work for Domestic workers to protect domestic workers as well as
recognise the gendered character of the informal economy and domestic work in
developing policies and programmes to address vulnerabilities in domestic
work,” it added.  

Dr Joseph K. Teye, a
Research Co-ordinator, Migration out of Poverty Consortium at CMS, presenting
the findings of the research at a workshop organised for members of Media
Network on Migration (MENOM), in Accra said domestic work contributed
significantly to the functioning of families, households and the labour markets
for Ghana’s economic and social development.

However, it is largely
undervalued as it carries a low value accorded to women’s unpaid care work as a
result it is poorly regulated and undertaken outside the realm of labour

He said although Ghana
had no holistic policy that addressed domestic work, there were various laws,
which provided an overall policy and institutional framework for conditions of
work and in providing for the rights of workers, including domestic work.

This should include
the 1992 Constitution, the Labour Act (Act No. 651 of 2003) and its legislative
instruments, the Children’s Act and the Domestic Violence Act.

“Given the fact that
the informal sector is the main economy of Ghana, this means that most workers
in Ghana do not enjoy the protection of labour laws.  Furthermore, the informality of domestic work
and its occurrence in the private sphere has meant that their rights are often
not enforced,” he said.

Dr Teye noted that the
Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and its Labour Department were the
key institutions governing recruitment of migrant labour and particularly
migrant domestic workers.

 He said monitoring the activities and
operations of recruitment agencies and intermediaries by the Labour Department
was however hampered by lack of adequate staff and adequately trained labour

“Although ILO
convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers is yet to be ratified, there
are increasing calls from Labour unions and other stakeholders for its
ratification in Ghana.

“The Domestic services
workers union (DSWU) has recently been formed with affiliation to the Ghana
Trades Union Congress,” he added.

Dr Teye said the
findings indicate that while domestic workers, in general face several
challenges which are related to the unequal power relations, there are clearly
gendered differences in the experiences of male and female migrant domestic
workers in Ghana.

“While male migrant
domestic workers receive relatively higher salaries and have a higher status in
households because of their skills, which give them stronger agency, the
multiple household tasks performed by female domestic workers are

“Female domestic
workers receive lower salaries even though they work longer hours.

“Part of this problem
is due to the fact that patriarchal gendered norms are transferred to the
domestic work market…

The findings, he said,
also suggested that the portrayal of migrant domestic workers as passive agents
and as victims, may not always reflect the entire situation as they exercise
some agency and employ various forms of strategies to survive in the various
contexts and to influence and shape their work situations. 

“The formation of a
domestic services workers union, should provide avenues for the regulation and
protection of domestic workers. It is therefore important that policies to
protect the rights of migrant domestic workers recognise and understand these
nuances in order not to further disadvantage migrant domestic workers. 

Professor Mariam
Awumbila, Director, Migrating out of Poverty Consortium, CMS, said  the project was a seven-year research programme
consortium (RPC) funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

She said the project
focused on the relationship between internal and regional migration and poverty
and was located in six regions across Asia, Africa and Europe.

The RPC is
co-ordinated by the University of Sussex.

Prof Awumbila said the
goal of the Migrating out of Poverty RPC was to maximise the poverty reducing
and developmental impacts of migration and minimise the costs and risks of
migration for poor people.

“Although migration
does not necessarily lead to such positive outcomes, the Migrating out of
Poverty RPC works to produce research, which sheds light on the circumstances
in which migration can most effectively reduce poverty,” she added.

She announced that the
Ghana project would wind up in June 30 after which there was hope for another

Following on from the
Migration DRC which was established in 2003, Migrating out of Poverty is
undertaking a programme of research, capacity-building, training and promotion
of dialogue to provide the strong evidential and conceptual bases needed for
such policy approaches.

Migrating out of
Poverty is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development,
although the views expressed in the policy briefing do not express DFID’s
official policy.

Th e CMS, is the West
African core partner for the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme
Consortium (RPC).


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