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About the Project

DemandAT, an interdisciplinary research project funded under the EU Seventh Framework Programme, started in January 2014 and was completed in June 2017. The project brought together nine partner organisations across seven European countries to investigate different approaches to addressing and reducing the demand for trafficking in human beings through anti-trafficking efforts and policies.demandAT

As part of DemandAT, the Cultural Pluralism team of the Global Governance Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre conducted the study on the demand-side of trafficking in domestic work. The research focused on seven country studies: Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

Based on the work of an international team of researchers, the project resulted in 17 publications – including policy briefs and research reports and a Special Issue in the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies. Two workshops and one keynote speech were also organised.

The website of the full project DemandAT is also available. 

Research Findings and Outcomes

Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) in domestic work takes place within the broader context of the widespread ‘employment’ of domestic workers in Europe. Private households’ growing demand for outsourcing domestic and care work is driven by multiple factors such as increased female labour market participation and changing demographics. The majority of domestic workers are women and migrants. Despite its economic and social importance, domestic work remains undervalued and domestic workers are often underpaid, overworked and face protection gaps compared with other labour sectors.

The phenomenon of trafficking in this labour sector is an area neglected by policy makers and law enforcement. Monitoring of labour standards is also extremely difficult given that the work takes place within private households.

The project suggests that most cases of trafficking in domestic work:

  • take place within informal and undeclared arrangements
  • involve mostly (but not always) migrants without work or residence permits/permission to stay
  • involve a growing number of EU citizens

Nearly all cases of trafficking in domestic work concern situations of live-in domestic workers — situations in which the worker lives in the employer’s home.

Four types of situations in which trafficking was reported were identified:

1) Domestic worker employed by private households

2) Domestic worker hired by diplomatic personnel

3) Misuse of the au pair programme (using this programme for a full-time care ‘worker’)

4) Family-based arrangements, such as child fostering

Key Messages for Policy Makers

The findings of the DemandAT project’s studies suggest that addressing demand cannot be separated from tackling the supply side, notably the vulnerabilities faced by domestic workers.

Key messages for policy makers coming out of the research:

  1. We must enhance detection mechanism and break the cycle of invisibility. Targeted trainings for police officers, prosecutors, and labour inspectors can increase their knowledge and understanding of trafficking and labour exploitation in the domestic work sector. It is also necessary to increase the support for trade unions and other civil society organisations that can identify and report cases of trafficking in this sector. Finally, support must be provided to self-organised groups of domestic workers

  2. We need to raise awareness and ensure better knowledge on all sides. Potential employers, private households, domestic workers trade unions and the general public must be informed

  3. We must strengthen domestic workers’ rights. Better regulations setting fair working conditions with incentives to comply for both employers and workers will definitely improve the framework

  4. We must enforce the law and monitoring mechanisms. Labour inspectorates have a central role to play to monitor working and living conditions of domestic workers

  5. We must ensure that recruitment agencies are better regulated and monitored

  6. We must promote the protection principle called ‘firewall’: which waives the obligation to report irregular migrants to authorities


Trafficking for Severe Labour Exploitation in Europe: Addressing, Dissemination Workshop, 12-13 October 2016, Florence, Italy

The workshop brought together researchers, international organisations and key stakeholders from different sectors  such as trade unions and labour inspection and international NGOs to discuss the challenges in responding to trafficking in different labour sectors, in particular in addressing demand.


Final Report and EU Policy Brief (December 2016)

The final outputs of the project present a European perspective.


Country Studies and Policy Briefs (June 2016)

For each case country study, a research report and a policy brief present the key findings:


Working Paper (2015):

Trafficking in Domestic Work: Looking at the Demand-Side, by  Alexandra Ricard-Guay
Provides a conceptual mapping concerning trafficking in the domestic work sector. This paper develops the framework for research for the case study on trafficking in domestic work.


Page last updated on 05 October 2018

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