Domestic Worker Groups

Social Protection For The Most Marginalised Informal Workers

Domestic Worker Groups
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Paper publication date: 
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Who are Domestic Workers?

Domestic workers are persons who work within an employer's household. They perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to housekeeping, including cleaning and household maintenance. Domestic workers are currently ineligible for National Social Security Fund (NSSF) schemes because they are not yet covered in the Cambodia Labour Law of 1997.

“I am good but I need to support others who need to support as me in the past,” said s Von Kimsry, 38 years old, a domestic worker taking care of children in a private house. She started working as a domestic worker when she was 18 years old with monthly earnings of only $25 in 1998. In 2000, she was selected to migrate to work in Malaysia through a labour company. She had many different work experiences as a DW in Malaysia with two different house owners. During her time in Malaysia when she worked with the first family, she faced a number of problems – her passport and legal documents were taken away from her, she did not have enough food to eat, and an inappropriate room for sleeping, and she had a workload with less sleeping time and rest. Her monthly salary was only $100. After four months she decided to quit her job. She sought help from the company and the Cambodian Embassy to find her another job/employer. With support from company, Kimsry moved to work with the second family. She worked with better conditions with monthly earnings of $120 for two years. After her contract ended, she decided to come back to Cambodia.

In Cambodia, she worked as a private tailor and house keeper and took care of children. For the first two years she got only $120 per month, based on gaining experience and job improvement with different employers, and later on she could earn up to between $250 and $280. She is now working as a domestic worker with a foreign family with better earnings of up to $380 per month with a good working conditions and other benefits.

In early 2018, Kimsry met with her friend, also a domestic worker, and her friend told her about Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)’s activity that aim to support DMs to help each other during difficult times, problems and abuse from house owners. First, she hesitated to participate with this group as her job was already good. She believed that only she can help herself, and solve her problems by herself, and only working hard can help her. But later on she decided to attend one meeting on domestic worker. She was excited to meet with other friends. She changed her mind and she applied to be a domestic worker member of IDEA. She is now very active to help other domestic workers. She said she is proud of her work and happy to help society and help other DWs to have a better understanding of the rights of domestic workers, understand the freedom of participation with associations and unions, and be confident in participating in advocacy work for domestic workers for better work conditions and access to social services.

IDEA was established on 30 April May 2005 as an informal workers association to protect and promote the rights and interests of marginalised informal workers in Cambodia. Since being established, IDEA has become the first workers’ association actively improving working conditions, livelihoods, and awareness of thousands of informal workers in Cambodia. IDEA has approximately 14,000 members from Phnom Penh and five provinces in Cambodia including tuk-tuk drivers, taxi drivers, street vendors, cart pullers, and domestic workers.

IDEA started its work with domestic workers in November 2012. Currently, IDEA is coordinating a Cambodian Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) which consists of 20 domestic worker groups. So far, 550 female members and 10% of men who work as private drivers, gardeners, and security guards have joined. These 20 groups of DWs in Cambodia have been organized, mobilised, strengthened and empowered to dialogue and negotiate with house owners and government for better access to social protection and decent living conditions. Their local leaders and activists are actively participating in organising, planning, conducting outreach and awareness, and engaging in advocacy and policy influencing.