The labor ministry seeks to step up enforcement of laws protecting domestic employees even though much of the workforce is in private homes.
A vice minister, Eugenio Solano Calderón, was at the legislature Thursday for a book launch and said that his agency, the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, has to find ways so that labor inspectors can enter a home to learn about the conditions under which employees there work.
About 12.3 percent of the female workforce is involved in domestic services, and this occupation is the second most popular among females after business. No one stressed nationality Thursday, but many women in these occupations in the home are foreign, perhaps Nicaraguan.
The book is De criadas y sirvientas a mujeres trabajadores con derecho that came from the Fundación Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, The title shows the emphasis of the meeting, which was to stress that care givers and servants now are female workers with rights.
In October, Costa Rica accepted Convention 189 of the International Labour Organization. In doing so, the legislators promised to make sure the country’s laws are consistent with what the international organization requires. For the most part, they are.
The convention sets out basic rules for domestic jobs. For example, a maid employed in a home must have 24 continuous hours of free time each week. And payments in kind, such as food and lodging cannot be the major part of the compensation.
Costa Rica differs with the convention because it prohibits domestic work for those under 18. The convention establishes 15 as the minimum age.
Pilar Porras Zúñiga, a lawmaker, said Thursday that Costa Ricans prefer that children under 18 remain in school instead of working.
In fact, there are many underage domestic employees working illegally. this is probably one reason that Solano promised more effort in allowing inspectors to enter private homes to learn about conditions.
The labor organization estimated that about 100,000 women in Costa Rica are employed in domestic jobs.