Research Spotlight

The Prevalence of Domestic Servitude Among Child Domestic Workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

It is estimated that there are 17.2 million child domestic workers globally, most of whom are girls. Research related to this marginalized group is limited, with most at a small scale or subsumed in other topics, such as domestic workers generally.

The dearth of evidence limits awareness about girls in such circumstances and inhibits the design and implementation of context-appropriate policy and program responses. 

The Population Council has conducted one of the largest-ever rigorous surveys of child domestic workers. The research, supported by The Freedom Fund and funded by the US Department of State Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office), documents the prevalence of domestic servitude, the entry and experience of girls in this work, and levels of human trafficking, hazardous work, and illegal child labor. 

The two-year study, which took place in low-income areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, takes into account ambiguities in distinguishing child domestic workers, especially when workers are distant family members or children considered to be fostered. The research includes those who self-identify as domestic workers, and girls who report a minimum of 14 hours of domestic work undertaken per week and are not living with conjugal family members. The majority of girls in child domestic work are migrants and come from extremely poor backgrounds.

A new report, The Prevalence of Domestic Servitude Among Child Domestic Workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, details the methodology and findings from the study.

Results show significant levels of hazardous and illegal labor:

  • Child domestic workers are doing 55 hours of domestic work per week on average, with 25% working over 70 hours per week; 40% not having a rest day during the week; and the 48% who are being paid earning an average of just ETB 1,117 (US $24) per month.
  • The vast majority (85%) of the child domestic workers were in conditions that amounted to the worst forms of child labour, in violation of UN convention.
  • Approximately one-fifth (22%) reported experiencing physical violence, while over one-third (34%) reported experiencing emotional violence, from an employer.
The study findings provide support for the following recommendations related to prevention, protection, and prosecution:
Prevention
  • Recognize domestic work under official labor laws, as well as through the ratification and incorporation of ILO Resolution Convention 189.
  • Ensure adequate consultation, representation, and voice for child domestic workers in future policy and legislative decisions.
  • Utilize existing local leaders and community structures, such as Idirs, faith leaders, and kebele and woreda-level structures, to instigate change in harmful norms towards child domestic workers, through strategies such as Codes of Conduct for employers and model contracts.
Protection
  • Provide adequate and reliable information in source communities for girls and families contemplating migration and entry into domestic work.
  • Support collaboration between government bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and community structures to ensure seamless and efficient identification, referral, shelter, and aftercare services for child domestic workers.
  • Break the isolation of child domestic workers with safe spaces aimed at: building their confidence, skills, and social capital; raising awareness of current laws and policies; and connecting them with support services and entitlements.
  • Provide opportunities for alternative basic education, life skills, and financial literacy training in a flexible format adapted to the needs of domestic workers.
Prosecution
  • Ensure all law enforcement bodies (police, prosecutors, judges) have the capacity and resources to enforce Ethiopia’s Labour Law, Constitution, and Antitrafficking legislation.
  • Implement special provisions for child-friendly reporting, investigation and tribunal procedures in suspected cases of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking.

Also read: Reducing the Prevalence of Child Domestic Servitude in Ethiopia