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 programmmes 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 regulations.
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 officers.
“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 under-valued.
“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 phase.
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).