UN_Savethedate_050521_ILO updated-04.png
Unseen, Under-valued Domestic Work Essential for all Business
Why Responsible Business Should Care about Care Work

 15:00 – 16:30  (Bangkok time, GMT+7), 2 June 2021

Click HERE to access the recordings of the RBHR Forum on YouTube

Organised by the United Nations Entity for the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)




Globally, there are 11.5 million migrant domestic workers and 4 million are from Asia region.1 Seventy-three per cent of all migrant domestic workers are women. Unlike other sectors, migrant domestic workers are often invisible as they work inside private households where they take care of children, elderly and household chores. In some places, migrant domestic workers are also required to live in the household with their employers. 


Migrant domestic workers are fundamental to the socio-economic development of many countries. In countries of destination, with workers’ professional support and contribution to families, parents can join the labour market. This is increasingly becoming a necessity as rising costs of living require families across Asia, especially those in urban environments, to become dual-income families. This reality, in turn, benefits businesses by resulting in productive and highly focused employees who do not need to be distracted by running household errands or other issues. According to a study on the economic contribution of migrant domestic workers in Asia 2, migrant domestic workers contributed an estimated USD$12.6 billion in 2018 to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China’s economy, representing 3.6% of the GDP. Migrant domestic workers in Singapore also contributed USD$8.2 billion to the economy (2.4% of the GDP) and in Malaysia, USD$0.9 billion, 0.3% of the GDP. 


Despite the value of care work contributed by migrant domestic workers, migrant domestic workers are often employed in the informal economy, without proper employment contract and/or registration, and excluded from the sphere of labour legislation. They are exceptionally vulnerable due to intersectional factors such as sex, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, socio-economic status, work nature, migrant identity, lack of legislation, unethical recruitment practices etc. These factors increase the risk of workers to face discrimination, violence, including sex or gender-based violence, and exploitation during all stages of their labour migration journey, from recruitment and employment to return and reintegration.



Session Description

This session will be a panel discussion casting light on how critical domestic work and labour migration are in women's economic empowerment and in sustainable development across Asia. Domestic workers are often excluded from forums focused on responsible business as they are not employed directly to work in supply chains or operations. This session is righting that wrong. Across Asia, staff spanning multi-nationals to small and medium-sized enterprises can only go to work because they employ domestic workers in their homes for necessary childcare, elderly care, housework and more. The tasks and responsibilities of domestic workers can be complex. Building skilled workforce will increase positive impacts for businesses as well as for the workers to reach their development potential. Skills development programmes and skills recognition to improve skills matching should be better recognized in business plans and actions. This session will not only highlight dimensions of domestic and care work,  gaps in protections but also share from practical experience as to how responsible business can include migrant domestic workers in their broader sustainability strategies.

Session Objectives

This session looks to dissect and discuss these practices, their implications, and the responsibilities of businesses.

The key objectives of this session are to:


  • To encourage recognition of domestic work as essential work

  • To promote gender-responsive recruitment and employment

  • To increase appreciation of skills necessary for domestic work, investment in skills development and skills recognition

  • To share knowledge from best practice and recommendations to ensure protection of migrant domestic workers


Panelists will reflect on the following questions:

  • Why should business care about the welfare of migrant domestic workers in their community?

  • What makes recruitment and employment gender-responsive? Why is this important?  

  • What are practical ways responsible business can promote the recognition, appreciation and protection of migrant domestic workers? 

Additional Background Documents

Operational Guidelines for Labour Recruiters on Ethical Recruitment, Decent Work and Access to Remedy of Migrant Domestic Workers (IOM 2020), https://publications.iom.int/books/guidelines-labour-recruiters-ethical-recruitment-decent-work-and-access-remedy-migrant 


Empowering Women Migrant Workers from South Asia: Toolkit for Gender-Responsive Employment and Recruitment (UN Women, 2019), https://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2019/03/empowering-women-migrant-workers-from-south-asia 


The Value Of Care: Key Contribution of Migrant Domestic Workers to Economic Growth and Family Well-being in Asia, (Enrich 2019) , https://enrichhk.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/Final_The-Value-of-Care_Full-Report.pdf

For questions, please contact unrbhrforum@undp.org