The Mexican government is planning to introduce a specific minimum wage for 2 million domestic workers in order to boost their labor rights after being neglected for years, an official said.

This week, activists, academics , and government officials met to discuss the establishment of a unique minimum wage for the workers in a country where the general baseline is MXN $103 per day.

While Mexico has dozens of different minimum wages for various kinds of jobs: from plumbers to truck drivers, the vast majority of domestic workers do not even have contracts and are at risk of exploitation , campaigners and officials say.

“It’s a group where most workers are women (...) they’re discriminated against, the vast majority don’t have a written contract , only 3% have social security, ” said Andrés Peñaloza, head of the National Minimum Wage Commission ( CONASAMI ).

“In summary, the situation they’ve had is a drama,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that the country owed a “ historic-social debt to a pretty vulnerable group .”

Also, this week the Senate approved a change to labor law a dding protections for domestic workers , including banning the hiring of people under 15 and mandating a written contract .

Last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s 2.3 million domestic workers , mostly women, had a right to social security coverage , and nearly 2,000 have signed up to an ongoing pilot scheme, said the Social Security Institute (IMSS) .

Peñaloza said that CONASAMI , which organized the event on Thursday, was considering four different minimum wages for domestic workers , ranging from MXN $103 to over MXN $300 per day.

In May, the commission will present the results of its studies to the all-male board, made up of 22 business and workers representatives, which will make the final decision.

“The proposal (...) is an act of justice and a detonator of cultural change that we should be carrying out in this new era,” said Nadine Gasman , head of the National Women’s Institute ( INMUJERES ).

Setting a baseline for domestic workers above the general minimum wage could lead to higher social security contributions to cover the cost of healthcare , said David Kaplan , senior l abor market specialist at the I nter-American Development Bank (IADB) .

Yet setting the wage too high could have adverse effects, according to both the Mexico-City-based economist and Peñaloza.

“If the minimum wage for domestic workers is unrealistically high, then there are only two possibilities; people don’t hire domestic workers anymore or they continue to hire them and they just keep them informal,” Kaplan said.

Oscar-nominated Mexican actress Yalitza Aparici o helped advance the debate after she starred in the award-winning film Roma as Cleo, a young indigenous domestic worker living with a middle-class family in Mexico City.

“I’m happy that the film managed to open lots of people’s eyes,” Aparicio told EFE in March.

“There are lots of professionals who do important things, but behind them, there are people who run their homes , look after children and its right to recognize that work.”


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