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Managing labour migration: The case of the Filipino and Indonesian domestic helper market in Hong Kong 19

analyzed through rights-based frameworks centered on the International Labour Organization’s principle of “decent work” (see Box 2).

5.1 International frameworks and standards: a human rights focus

Currently, there are no international instruments solely dedicated to the protection of domestic workers. There exists, however, several international legal apparatus that (directly and indirectly) apply to domestic work22. The following section highlights three international instruments23 (or frameworks) applicable to foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong and commonly employed by policy experts and practitioners working on managing labor mobility.

5.1.1 ILO Migration for Employment Convention, No. 97 (C97)24

C97 (1949) covers the entire labor migration process–from pre-departure to return. It lays out the conditions governing the “orderly” recruitment of migrant workers. C97 underscores “the principle of equal treatment with national workers regarding working conditions, trade union membership and enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining, accommodation, social security, employment taxes and legal proceedings relating to matters outlined in the convention25.” Hong Kong ratified C97 in 1951. To date, neither the Philippines nor Indonesia have ratified this convention.

5.1.2 ILO Migrant Workers Convention, No. 143 (C143)

C143 (1975) is broader in scope than C97. It was adopted at a time when abuses of migrant workers were drawing the attention of the international community. C143 imposes an obligation onto states "to respect the basic human rights of all migrant workers," confirming its applicability to foreign domestic workers. The Philippines ratified C143 in 2006. Indonesia and Hong Kong have yet to follow suit.

22 Additional non-ILO international instruments relating to domestic workers: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.

23 Note: all three international instruments provided the foundation for the 2006 ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration – a non-binding framework negotiated across the ILO’s tripartite structure. This is the latest globally accepted framework for addressing the labor migration management problem.

24 The ILO has two legally-binding international instruments relevant to migrant workers. These are C97 and C143.

25 Ryszard Cholewinski. “Protecting Migrant Workers in a Globalized Economy.” Migration Information Source, March 2005. http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=293

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