Under the slogan – Invest in Care – World Day of Decent Work this year sheds a light on the hard and vital work of domestic and care workers in Europe.
Both are amongst the fastest growing sectors in Europe. Yet, they belong to the most vulnerable groups. Working mostly for private households, it is not unusual that domestic and care workers remain without clear terms of employment.
Both jobs are often
- with high workloads
- physically and emotionally demanding
- carried out with insecure conditions, inadequate training, poor career prospects
EFFAT organises several hundreds of thousands of domestic workers in Europe. The informal economy in which they operate keeps them vulnerable to isolation, poverty, harassment, violence, and in some cases even slavery. Several EU Member States – yet still too few – have recognised the value of domestic workers’ hard and vital work by bringing them into the formal economy through state-subsidised schemes, such as service vouchers. Yet, organising, collective bargaining and strengthening domestic workers’ trade union power is a key tool to ensure decent work in the sector.
While care workers are often badly paid, care is expensive for those who have to pay for it out of their own pocket. An EU wide survey in 2015 found that almost 60% of people had difficulties with the cost of childcare, and 5% had difficulties with the availability of childcare. There is a shortage of childcare, and even more of elderly care – in Spain and Italy about 30% of need for home care (not childcare) is not met.
According to EPSU, the European Public Service Union, what care workers need is more public investment to get more pay and better working conditions, increased staffing, better health and safety, more training and opportunities for career development.
According to UNI Europa, the European private-sector services union, over half of all care workers are in emotionally disturbing situations up to 75% of their working time, and 1 in 4 care workers say they need more training to cope well with their duties. The toll this takes on the workers, in addition to the physical strain, is considerable and one reason that worker turnover in some EU countries amounts to 50 per cent. Especially in multinational companies such as Fresenius and Orpea, workers need and deserve better working conditions.
According to the ETUC, governments have a role to play, and policies to ensure more public and affordable quality care services must also tackle the problem of poor pay and conditions for care workers. One way to do this is by supporting collective bargaining.