Eesc Hearing on Live-In Carers

Eesc Hearing on Live-In Carers


Brussels, 25 April 2016

Eve Geddie, PICUM - Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants

  • Introduction to PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants)
  • PICUM members working all across Europe have seen daily cases in which undocumented migrant workers suffer in silence, are afraid to speak up against their employers, do not feel that they can safely report exploitation to labor inspectors.

Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS), Research on Greece (2015)

“I THOUGHT I WAS APPLYING AS A CARE GIVER: Combating Trafficking in Women for Labour Exploitation in Domestic Work”

The demand for domestic workers – which has diminished because of the economic crisis but which continues to be strong especially in the sector of live-in carers of the elderly and children – has not been met with policies promoting the legal migration channels and the legalisation of those already working in live-in domestic work. By failing to recognise the rights of these migrant workers in a way that takes into account their needs and demands continues to offer a fertile ground for the development of different forms of exploitation, which only start with trafficking. Unless efforts are made to ensure that migrant domestic workers are granted legal avenues to immigrate, reasonable working hours and payment, it is reasonable to assume that most cases of trafficking for domestic work will remain unidentified and the issue will continue to be silenced in public debates.

  1. Policies out of touch with reality
  • Two indicators:
  • Numbers of deaths of people arriving irregularly into the EU (not all ask for asylum; many are seeking work and also literally dying to work)
  • Presence of migrants in the informal economy, especially undocumented migrants, in low and medium wage sectors (care work,domestic work, construction, agriculture, etc)
  • De-skilling (highly skilled workers are doing low and medium skilled jobs).
  • No formal channels of employment- people needing care work for elderly, children, but not having possibility. Also a push on de-institutionalization in some countries but not proper ways to accommodate live-in carers.
  • Demographic issues – EU will lose workers in coming decades.
  • Eurostat projects that the EU workforce will shrink by 50 million over the next 50 years and even if all the planned policies to create jobs for the unemployed succeed, Europe needs labour migration.
  • Labour market demand exists in low wage occupations across the EU. Yet migrant workers able to work in these sectors are prevented by national and EU migration policies from obtaining work and residence permits for regular work
  • Although EU and MS migration policies have been focusing on asylum, it's time to be serious and honest about the state of our labour market, the unmet needs, growing exploitation. We don't want to end up in a situation where the living standard of the middle class is maintained on the expense of exploitative labour.
  • Little focus on the significant number of undocumented workers already here, already working.

Employers’ sanctions directive – only tool addressing UDMW at EU level

  • Main objective of the directive: to prevent irregular migration by tackling a “pull factor” for the presence of undocumented migrants in the EU – the ability to find employment in the informal economy. The directive thus establishes sanctions for employers who hire undocumented workers, as one of the many means that the EU has developed to fight irregular migration.
  • How effective has the directive been in upholding the labor rights of UDM?
  • Article 6 establishes several safeguards to protect the labor rights of UDM, including a requirement for the employer to pay any outstanding wages to the worker, the possibility to issue residence permits of limited duration in cases of particularly exploitative employment conditions.
  • However, our policy brief – analysis in 4 countries but draws on experiences throughout the EU - there is little or no evidence of enforcement of labor rights in cases of exploitation, as well as insignificant or no sanctions at all of employers who hire UDM.
  1. Ways forward: Regular channels and regularization

2.1 Regularization of undocumented migrant workers.

  • In the current discussion on integration of refugees and asylum seekers into the labor market, where integration into the labor market is seen as a priority, we have to bear in mind that paradoxically, undocumented migrant workers integrate themselves into the labor market from Day 1. Since they can’t benefit from unemployment or social benefits, they must work to survive and thus provide key contributions to the economy.
  • Directives in place such as employer sanctions- in reality, it is not working because employers are not properly sanctioned and workers are often deported without being able to claim wage
  • Strategic intervention in labour markets – understanding exploitation, deskilling and ways of escaping from it. Employers, trade unions, researchers, think tanks all have to be involved.

2.2 Regularchannels -especially sectors with a lot of exploitation, including care works.

  • Domestic work, care work-under evolved - ‘high responsibility of caring for others’, unregulated, unchecked area.
  • We see the Platform on Undeclared Work as a positive development:
  • Important shift from focus on high wage workers but will attempt to look at labour market gaps also in low wage sectors that will face recruitment difficulties.
  • focus will be on informal exchange, learning and capacity building
  • approach (target group V sectoral) is still to be decided
  • while PICUM was not granted ‘observer status’, we are happy that ILO are,
  • & have been assured that ‘invited experts’ can attend certain events.
  • unclear if Member State representatives will all be labor inspection (or also social security, interior ministry, labour ministry etc)
  • On new EU Platform on Undeclared Work. We have heard that DG HOME would play a role in this platform, which is led by DG EMPL, but will have to ensure that this is the case as this platform evolves. Also, since the platform works through social dialogue, NGOs have no formal input on it (yet were the majority of participants in the Migration Forum).

International standards are a starting point: ILO frameworks, conventions.

  • EU Member States’ obligations
  • Basis for development of new regular channels in these areas
  • Reforming of recruitment industry – coordinated effort needed between origin and destination country government agencies to protect and promote international labor standards.

Current EU instruments:

  • Single permit directive.
  • Doesn’t set admission but procedural guarantees and set of rights for everyone
  • Yet how is it really applied to low and medium skilled workers? Is there a proper implementation?
  • New students and researchers directive- also covers au pairs.
  • Principle of equal treatment with nationals
  • To be adapted by summer 2016
  • Seasonal workers’ directive- to be transposed by 30 September 2016. It includes protective measures, including possibility to charge employer.

What about other sectors? Should the EU make additional legislation?

-Some said not possible to pick a sector, at EU level, because of different realities and national level and priority should go to domestic legislation.

-Others suggested a general framework directive at EU level rather than different sectors (to avoid segmented approach) > would beakin to single permit directive but also regulating entry.

-Opening up of regular channels for low and medium skilled occupations at EU level.

  • Because EU cannot make legislation in certain sectors, pooling of applications in all sectors and directive potential employees to employers
  • Migration job database (“job matching” as referred to in the recent Communication on the Asylum system).
  • Because employers in many countries don’t know very well in advance jobs they would need for following year, difficult to establish precise quotas.
  • This would be employer-driven, meeting demand
  • Sweden’s labour migration policy – including family reunification possibility.

Finally, creation of enabling environment to promote integration of workers and social inclusion, especially of migrant workers and their families working in sectors where there is a high degree of exploitation and abuse.

  • Integrated approach to accessing services for low and medium skilled, including health care > today is World Health Day.
  • Engaging with employers for equal treatment in the workplace, as diversity management helps to foster inclusion.
  • Enabling workers to be empowered, also to foster integration
  • Working with local communities to foster integration
  • Strengthening relationship of country of origin, through : embassies – training domestic workers and rights- and pre-departure trainings
  • PICUM’s is continuing to address the issue of regular channels for low-wage workers. We would also welcome a dialogue with trade unions on this issue as well as input from the Commission.
  • We are also active on the global level, where we see enormous developments around the area of regulating labor recruitment yet enormous setbacks when low-wage work channels become “legal exploitation.”
  1. Regular channels

Some preliminary recommendations on regular channels:

  • Address the demand and supply for irregular work by establishing a better regulated EU labour market by facilitating the creation of more entry and stay opportunities for third country migrant workers across skill levels and labour sectors in member states.
  • Allow for transition to permanent migration in circular and temporary migration schemes as labour shortage in these sectors is not temporary and could lead into more irregularity and undeclared work.
  • Reduce undeclared work and irregular migration by strengthening the residence status of third country migrant workers by uncoupling residence and work permits so that loss of employment would not automatically lead to loss of residence status.
  • “Kafala” system in Middle East – where worker is tied to one employer through their work and residence permit – also exists in some EU MS.



  • Remove barriers preventing undocumented workers from reporting exploitation and abuse by supporting member states in setting up a “firewall” - a clear separation in law and practice between the powers and remit of labour and social inspectors and migration law enforcement authorities. Requirements for labour inspectors to report undocumented migrants to immigration authorities should be eliminated and sharing of personal information for immigration enforcement purposes should be prohibited.
  • Firewall is crucial because the rights that do exist for undocumented workers in the directive depend on this.
  • Role of EU: support national labour inspectorates as they should be the main body enforcing the labour rights in the directive
  • However - also confirmed by the FRA Selex - in many countries not even an inspectorate in place who would be responsible for workers’ rights.

Legislation and Policy:

  • Promote the facilitation of residence permits for exploited undocumented workers and promote ongoing regularisations based on employment and social security contributions.
  • Urge member states to put in place specific procedures for the transfer and receipt of any payments owed including after the worker has been returned to the country of origin.

Policy Coordination:

  • Integrate the specific concerns of undocumented migrant workers in all EU instruments and initiatives designed to improve working conditions and labour rights
  • Including in:
  • Work programme of the EU Senior Labour Inspectors Committee
  • DG Employment Platform on Undeclared Work
  • Enhance coordination between DG HOME (Home Affairs and Migration), DG EMPL (Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility), social partners and civil society organisations working with migrant workers concerning the enforcement of labour rights in the directive through regular consultations.

Reporting and Data Collection:

  • Urge member states to hold regular consultations with civil society members assisting undocumented workers as an integral part of their reporting process to the EU Commission on the implementation of the directive and consult regularly with national and European civil society organisations during the EU level monitoring process of the implementation of the directive.
  • Improve data collection mechanisms linked to the enforcement of labour rights in the directive by urging member states to collect comparative data on numbers of complaints lodged, number and amount of wages received and number and amount of sanctions imposed.
  • Improve EU-wide collection of disaggregated data on work place accidents of migrant workers and promote access to labour accident compensation for all workers irrespective of immigration status.


  • Support the creation of more effective complaints mechanisms by creating direct funding opportunities for civil society organisations, trade unions providing first-line assistance to undocumented workers with labour rights complaints in addition to channelling allocated structural funding for this purpose.

3. Promoting a climate of zero tolerance of labor exploitation

  • FRA Selex report – several forms of labor exploitation are extensively criminalized under EU and MS’ laws, but not comprehensively and consistently enough.
  • This was also focus of round table that PICUM and ETUC held with UN SR on Trafficking – looking at three EU instruments (Employers’ sanctions; Anti-Trafficking; Victims of Crime directive) – and the gaps in practice.
  • Victims of crime – policy instrument that PICUM is looking at in the area of labor exploitation, as some countries may transpose it to include severe labor exploitation as a crime.
  • FRA Selex report lists wide range of policy areas and recommendations which should be examined in-depth on the national level by MS (including trade unions and NGOs) as well as consistently promoted by the EU.
  • Also framing and irregular migration