One hundred years ago the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 1919 (No. 3) was the third international labour Convention adopted during the first session of the International Labour Conference in 1919. This international labour standard is ground breaking in many ways, setting the foundation for later human rights and labour rights instruments on maternity protection, social security and childcare services for all workers.
Though maternity protection standards have existed for the past 100 years, progress on extending maternity protection and childcare for women workers remains persistently slow. The ILO estimates that only 41 per cent of mothers with newborns receive a maternity benefit (ILO, 2017), with close to 1 billion women employed in the informal economy with little or no access to maternity protection (ILO, 2018a). Childcare services are also lacking in lowand middle-income countries with employed women most frequently providing unpaid care for children below the age of six (UN Women, 2015). Maternity protections, including access to health care, and childcare services are complementary components of a broader social protection 1 The relevant Conventions and Recommendations are: Maternity Protection (Agriculture) Recommendation, 1921 (No. 12); Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103) and its accompanying Maternity Protection Recommendation, 1952 (No. 95); and Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) and its accompanying Maternity Protection Recommendation, 2000 (No. 191). system that women workers require to mitigate the risks to their incomes and employment when they have a child in their care. Women workers in the informal economy are particularly at risk due to their already low and irregular earnings, limited access to social security coverage, and their inability to pay for quality childcare services.