Publication Date



In June 2011, the International Labour Conference adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189) and Recommendation (No.201) which are the first international standards specifically dedicated to the promotion of decent work for this group of workers. Since then, the instruments have become an important source of guidance for policy-makers around the globe seeking to improve the living and working conditions of domestic workers. The ILO’s follow-up activities in support of governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations include knowledge development and sharing, awareness raising and the promotion of social dialogue.

In this context, the ILO has supported the preparation of national study exploring the domestic work sector in Turkey. Given the need to share knowledge and research in this field across countries and regions, we are pleased to make the study, which was prepared by Prof. Dr. Gülay Toksöz and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Seyhan Erdoğdu from Ankara University, available through the Conditions of Work and Employment Working Research Series. This Series is aimed at presenting the findings of policy-oriented research in the area of working conditions from multidisciplinary perspectives such as laws, economics, statistics, sociology and industrial relations.

The findings of the study were presented at a National Conference on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Turkey organized by the ILO in February 2013, with the participation of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The Conference was an opportunity for the ILO’s tripartite constituents, as well as civil society organizations and academia to discuss the main problems facing domestic workers in Turkey and to reflect on possible ways forward.

The study highlights that informality is a predominant feature of domestic work in Turkey, a sector largely comprised of women workers. For domestic workers recruited locally, informal channels such as personal acquaintances play an important role in the quest for a job. Migrant domestic workers, on the other hand, typically rely on intermediary agencies to obtain a job. The activities of unlicensed agencies increase the workers’ vulnerability to psychological, physical and sexual harassment at work. Long working hours, lack of social security coverage and casual employment are some other difficulties facing domestic workers in Turkey. Presently, domestic workers are excluded from the scope of the Labour Code, but are covered by the Law of Obligations. The authors of the study suggest that there is need but also room for improving domestic workers’ access to social security and for strengthening the legal framework addressing domestic workers’ needs and working conditions.


Suggested Citation
Erdoğdu, S. & Toksöz, G. (2013). The visible face of women’s invisible labour: Domestic workers in Turkey. Geneva: International Labour Office.