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Regulatory Challenges in Domestic Work: The Case of Brazil. Ana Virgínia Moreira Gomes, Ph.D. Universidade Católica de Santos - Brazil. Domestic Workers: who are they?Informality : 6.6m(2008). Proportion of domestic workers with formal status in Brazil 1998 & 2008. Source: IPEA, 2010.

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Regulatory Challenges in Domestic Work: The Case of Brazil

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Regulatory Challenges in Domestic Work: The Case of Brazil

Ana Virgínia Moreira Gomes, Ph.D.

Universidade Católica de Santos - Brazil

Domestic Workers: who are they?Informality: 6.6m(2008)

Proportion of domestic workers with formal status in Brazil 1998 & 2008

Source: IPEA, 2010

Domestic Workers: who are they?Education

Domestic Workers: who are they?Low wages

Domestic Workers: who are they?Participation in the labour market

Domestic Workers: who are they?

Domestic workers’ rights

  • Article 7 of the1988 Constitution guarantees domestic workers 10 of the 29 fundamental labour rights guaranteed to all other workers:

    minimum wage; irreducibility of wage; annual bonus; paid weekly leave; annual paid vacation; vacation bonus, 120 days paid maternity leave; five days paid paternity leave; notice of dismissal; social security system.

Domestic workers’ rights

  • Law #5.859/72 (known as domestic workers law, lei dos empregados domésticos) regulates domestic work.

  • Decree # 6481/2008 includes domestic child labour among the worst forms of child labour and prohibits domestic work for children under 18 years.

Missing rights

  • Family bonus, additional remuneration for unhealthy, dangerous or night-shift work, overtime pay, limits on hours of work and occupational accident insurance.

  • Trend towards inclusion of domestic workers in the labour and social security systems.

Challenges facing the regulation of domestic work

  • Informality

  • Domestic child labour

  • Discrimination and

  • Violence against domestic workers


The high informality of domestic work is closely related to poor law enforcement, insufficient labour inspection and the low-level of education among domestic workers

Domestic child labour

  • Article 5, Line XXXIII of the Constitution prohibits employment of children younger than 16 years.

  • Brazil ratified the fundamental ILO conventions 138 and 182.

  • In 2008, 4,500,000 children between 5 and 17 years old worked in various types of child labour, including domestic child labour. Almost 1/3 of all child workers work at least 40 hours a week.

Domestic child labour

  • Domestic work seen by many as an opportunity for a better life for poor children

  • Lack of labour inspection


  • Domestic workers are subject not only to direct discrimination, as the law does not grant them the same rights as other workers, but also to indirect discrimination:

    Gender and Colour discrimination

Domestic Workers by Race

Average income in Brazil based on gender and colour (1995-05)

White Men







Source: ILO, Suplemento Nacional do Relatório Global 2007


  • Afro-Brazilian women moved from the senzala to domestic work.

  • In many cases, working for housing and food.

  • Colour discrimination has been the main factor that explains why Afro-Brazilian women make-up until today the majority of domestic workers.

Violence against domestic workers

  • After housewives, domestic workers are the second biggest group of female victims of domestic violence.

  • The most common cases include moral harassment, physical aggression, sexual harassment and rape.

Possible Policy Responses

In addition to the recognition of employment rights, Brazil has not developed the means through which domestic workers are able to enjoy these rights, such as strengthening labour inspection, trade unions and developing public policies to guarantee domestic workers’ fundamental rights.

Possible Policy Responses

  • Recognition of Fundamental Rights

  • Public policies concerning domestic work and the ministry of labour

  • Strengthening domestic workers’ trade unions

“Citizen domestic worker”

  • Two subprograms offer education, professional qualification and tips on organizing unions.

  • The third subprogram, called “Public policies intervention” consists of public campaigns on issues such as human rights, violence against women, right to housing, health, work and social security and eradication of domestic child labour.

Strengthening domestic workers’ trade unions

  • In Brazil, there are approximately 40 domestic workers’ trade unions.

  • Non-recognition of domestic work as professional category because of its nonprofit character

  • Economic difficulties resulting from the lack of contributions

  • Law does not recognize the right of collective bargaining for domestic workers


  • Improvements in the law recognizing employment rights of domestic workers;

  • Insufficient government policies that address major gaps in regulation.

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