Millions of children around the world – mainly girls – are in paid or unpaid domestic work in households other than their own (ILO, 2013 – see box below). Of these, the ILO estimates that 11.5 million are in unacceptable situations, i.e., in child labour in domestic work either because they are below the legal minimum working age, or are working under hazardous conditions or in circumstances that can be considered as slavery. At a time when the overall number of child labourers is on the decline, the number of children in domestic work shows no sign of decreasing.
Child domestic workers are often hard to help not only because they work behind the closed doors of their employers' homes, but also because societies see what they do not as work but more as filial duty, and – particularly in relation to girls – as important training for later life. These children carry out tasks such as cleaning, ironing, cooking, gardening, collecting water, looking after other children and caring for the elderly. Children doing this work need our attention in particular because of the conditions under which they are working. Many 'live-in' with their employers and are especially vulnerable. Most have no, or insuficient, access to education. Many children report that their daily experience of discrimination and isolation in the household is the most difficult part of their burden. Their situation, and how they got to be there, also makes them highly dependent on their employers for their basic needs, and at times results in physical, psychological and sexual violence. CDWs are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation not only because they are children, and especially girls, but also because they are working in people's homes without being recognised as workers.