MPC Lunchtime Seminar – The Legislative Precariousness of Migrant Domestic Workers and Human Rights Law’s Focus on Victimisation

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Speaker: Fulvia Staiano (Government of Ireland – Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Law, University College Cork, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute)


Throughout Europe, migrant domestic workers are in high demand. The lack of developed care services and the push factors encouraging this group to accept low pay and poor working conditions contribute to the high concentration of migrants, especially women, in this sector. This demand, however, has not generated comprehensive legal regimes regulating the domestic work sector. On the contrary, migrant domestic workers experience “legislative precariousness” (a term coined by Einat Albin and Virginia Mantouvalou in 2012), fostered by both labour law and immigration law.

Against this background, since its landmark judgment of Siliadin v. France the European Court of Human Rights has established key principles in the field of labour exploitation of domestic workers. However, it has so far exclusively recognised positive state obligations to devise criminal law responses to egregious civil rights violations, including slavery and domestic servitude. More common forms of “everyday” exploitation, as well as state obligations beyond criminal law, remain to date unexplored. This focus mirrors a broader tendency of international human rights law to concentrate on victimisation of vulnerable subjects rather than adopting a more holistic approach and address the socio-economic roots of this vulnerability. In this light, my presentation will reflect on possible strategies to bridge the gap between human rights law and the reality of migrant domestic workers in Europe, with the aim of remedying their legislative precariousness.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Future seminar dates for your diaries: 18 February, 10 March, 21 April, 19 May, 2 June