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  • A picture showing director Alfonso Cuaron on the set of his acclaimed latest film 'Roma,' which has sparked a debate on domestic workers' rights in Mexico. November 2018.

    A picture showing director Alfonso Cuaron on the set of his acclaimed latest film 'Roma,' which has sparked a debate on domestic workers' rights in Mexico. November 2018. | Photo: Netflix-EFE

Published 7 December 2018

Domestic workers have come a long way fighting for their rights in Mexico, with little success - until now. 

Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice approved a bill forcing employees to grant domestic workers a social security number, citing discriminatory practices - and gave the institute six months to develop a program for them.

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The bill, proposed by Minister Alberto Perez Dayan, brands as “discriminatory” the fact that domestic workers are excluded from the Federal Law of Work and the legal framework of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), taking into account that nine out of ten domestic workers are women and that 12.2 percent of employed women work in that field.

Domestic work is a great part of Mexican economy and provides for thousands of families across the country. Most of the workers come from vulnerable groups, such as indigenous women, and often emigrate to the cities looking to improve their quality of life.

Once in the cities, many find themselves victims of abuse by employers, including sexual, and enjoy no legal benefits as their work is considered irregular.

Now, the IMSS will develop a pilot program for domestic workers until mid 2019 - having in mind the nature of their activities, while making it easy for employers to include them.

All domestic workers will be included in the pilot program no longer than 18 months after it’s implemented by the institution.

On Wednesday - when the court ruled in favor of the project, a column by the founder of the Support and Capacitation Center for Domestic Workers (CACEH) sparked debate in Mexico.

Marcelina Bautista wrote about the situation of domestic workers in Mexico - inspired by the latest film of Alfonso Cuaron, which deals with the lack of employment benefits and economic uncertainty while facing discrimination in the city.

“I’m Marcelina Bautista and I’m probably the first domestic worker with a column published in a national newspaper,” were the first lines of the article written by Bautista, published in El Universal.

“...I was never treated as a worker and I was never given the rights granted to any other worker by law. Without protection by laws or institutions I depended, as domestic workers in Mexico depend, of each family’s will.”

Disappointed by national and local governments, Bautista decided to found CACEH in 2000 and has been fighting for workers’ rights since then.

Cuaron’s film, ‘Roma,’ features a domestic worker at a wealthy household in Mexico City. Just like Bautista, Cleo emigrated from Oaxaca looking for a better life in the city, suffering from discrimination due her origins and social class.

Bautista also regrets that Mexico has not ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 189, which in 2013 recognized inequalities and discrimination regarding domestic work and its effects on women and children who often come from vulnerable sectors of society.

Current legislation forbids domestic workers from retiring through IMSS, and forces them to apply for a “voluntary” health insurance, which is more expensive than regular programs.

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