Controversial domestic labour bill adopted in Morocco
Casablanca - The Moroccan parliament adopted a controversial bill regulating domestic work. The measure has been strongly criticised by civil society organisations.
The government was forced to add an amendment that made the legal work minimum age 18 years rather than 16 during a transitional period of five years following pressure from civil society and international organisations, which have been lobbying the government for years for regulations regarding domestic workers, especially minors.
Moroccan non-governmental organisation Insaf denounced the bill, which it said would allow the exploitation of child domestic workers for five years.
“For unexplained and inexplicable reasons, upon the proposal of the minister of Employment, lawmakers voted in Article 6 of the law a five-year period during which the exploitation of minors is permitted,” said Insaf in a statement published online.
The Moroccan association said the government proposal is not accompanied by concrete action to reinsert minor domestic workers into society.
“The voted text includes no indication of the practical arrangements and does not refer to any text that legally pulls out minors from exploitation in households and accompany them in the long process of extraction from exploitation, rehabilitation and reintegration into families and schools, which is our main demand, after limiting the minimum age to 18 years,” added the statement.
Moroccan Minister of Employment and Social Affairs Abdeslam Seddiki said: “We have responded to the call of associations concerning the minimum age to be 18 in a few years.”
The amendment may have not satisfied many in civil society but the new legal framework for domestic workers, who were previously ignored by law, is a major social progress for thousands of people.
According to figures published by civil society organisations involved in the fight against child labour, there are 66,000-88,000 “little maids” in Morocco, 60% of whom are younger than 12 years. The majority of them are from poor, rural areas. Poverty, low household income and lack of education are the main factors that drive parents to allow their children to be domestic workers.
Minors are forced to work as “little maids” to provide for their families who cannot make ends meet, especially in times of drought. They represent steady income for their parents, whose crop remains at the mercy of good rainfall.
The rising cost of living in big cities also drives parents with low income to force their children to work for upper-middle class households where women are looking for domestic help as they are entering the traditional labour market.
Many minor girls find themselves without an education because of the gender discrimination in rural areas and the lack of schools. Others drop out of school because they cannot afford to continue their studies.
Some child domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly girls, work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for as little as $11 a month, according to a report Lonely Servitude: Child Domestic Labour in Morocco, released by Human Rights Watch in 2012.
“Working in private homes, many of these girls endure terrible conditions but have no idea where to turn for help,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
A minimum monthly salary of $160 for a maximum 48-hour work week is required by the proposed measure, which will be submitted to a vote in the lower house and then be published in the official bulletin before effectively becoming law.
The bill requires employers to establish a contract with the worker regarding social security and holiday periods. It provides for protective measures against hazardous work and establishes repressive penalties that can lead to imprisonment for violations of the law.
It remains to be seen if the law will be enacted before parliamentary elections October 7th and whether it will be respected. However, the law sends a strong signal to Moroccan households that domestic workers have rights, including the right to dignity.