Swedish Riksdag adopts ILO Convention 189 – a triumph of dedicated progressive efforts

International issues Last week, the Swedish Riksdag voted to ratify the ILO Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers - a triumph for LO and all affiliates. Together with several other organisations, LO has strived unrelentingly for the ratification to become a reality. Now that this is finally happening, Sweden's legislation can be strengthened for those who work in someone's home. Thus Sweden can in a concrete way contribute to providing the most vulnarable workers in the world with decent working conditions and hence better prospects.

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International responsibility and sustainable development

The ratification of ILO Convention No. 189 shows the importance of a government that assumes international responsibility and aims to contribute to sustainable development. During the time the right-wing government was in office until 2014, there was no intention shown to strengthen the rights of domestic workers. The ratification process was stalled. The Swedish Enterprise had a narrow nationalist perspective and argued that there was no need for such ratification in Sweden.

The rights of women in a vulnerable sector ultimately guaranteed

When the government led by Stefan Löfven took office in 2014, it began to listen to LO's demand to immediately start the process of adopting the Convention. LO maintained that the government's ambitious gender equality policy and the formulation of the important feminist foreign policy were the foundation for prioritising the ratification of the Convention. After a lot of preparatory work at the Swedish Ministry of Employment, it is now a reality.

According to ILO estimates there are 67 million people worldwide who perform domestic work of some kind daily. One in 25 of the world’s working women is a domestic worker. Domestic workers often have unregulated working conditions with long working hours and insecurity about getting paid. They often work alone and lack access to necessary information. The sector is characterised by arbitrariness, discrimination and sexual harassment. The ILO Convention No. 189 guarantees the fundamental rights of these workers, such as the right to regulated working hours, the right to an employment contract and the right to information. In addition, it will be possible for domestic workers to report their employer in case of discrimination or conflict.

The feminist foreign policy has been successful

During its recent, regular term of office, the Swedish government ratified the ILO Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention. Now under the prolonged term, it has ratified the ILO Convention No. 189. Thanks to its feminist foreign policy, the Swedish government has achieved great progress in the UN in terms of women’s rights in working life, having made this issue a part of the agenda for a sustainable working life. The Global Deal, an initiative for a more just globalisation and inclusive economy, was launched by Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and is now being hosted by the OECD and the ILO. It is obvious that political will is the crucial element. LO therefore expects that the next government will not reduce the level of ambition but will continue to assume the leading position of Sweden in the struggle for human rights.

LO pursues ongoing efforts to push for a ratification of the ILO Convention No. 94 on Public Procurement. In addition, LO, jointly with the global trade union movement headed by the ITUC, urges Sweden to stand behind a new ILO Convention against violence and harassment in working life, the negotiations of which will be finalised next year. The Convention is aimed at further strengthening the protection of workers and not least women in working life. LO will continue its dedicated struggle, by being a driving force in these efforts.

Oscar Ernerot, International secretary, LO