Undocumented domestic workers in Spain

By Daniel Izuzquiza,
Pueblos Unidos – General Coordinator,
Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM-España).

In Spain, there are some 700.000 domestic workers. Although there are no clear data on this reality, it is estimated that around 90% of them are women, at least 60% are migrant workers, and more than 60% of them live and work in an irregular situation. It is clear that they play a significant role in our society – taking care of the elderly and children, and providing other important services in our households—and it is also clear that they suffer from severe labour conditions and unjust legislation.

For over a decade, Pueblos Unidos has been working in Madrid with and for undocumented migrants, many of whom are employed as domestic workers. As a member of Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM-España), Pueblos Unidos accompanies them, we serve them and we advocate for their cause. Within our welcome program, on a daily basis we provide advice, personal support, group encounters, and information on immigration and labour-related issues. Annually, several thousands of people come to our offices. We also offer training courses and other capacity-building initiatives, with around 800 participants each year. Finally, we are also engaged in the process of helping undocumented migrant women to organize themselves, participate in society, and make their voices heard.

The Spanish legislation on domestic workers was approved in 1985, and up to today still justifies an unequal framework for this group of workers. Civil society actors, such as NGOs, unions and migrant associations, have for a long time advocated for legal changes to overcome discrimination against domestic workers. Earlier this summer a positive agreement was reached between unions and the Government, but it is necessary to continue the reforms and, particularly, to find a solution for the especially harsh situation of domestic workers with an irregular administrative status.

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