Migrant Domestic Workers: Working Conditions Can Emulate Enslavement

Middle-class families increasingly depend on domestic help for cooking and cleaning services, eldercare and childcare. Almost 70 million domestic workers, most women, toil around the globe. The global supply of labor for work deemed unskilled is huge. Wages are low, and private homes are the setting for many workers with limited communication or organizing skills. About 20 percent of these workers are migrants, and work conditions vary from country to country and household to household. Regulations often emphasize anti-immigration nativism over labor protections. Stories of exploitation are common, explain Satveer Kaur-Gill, a 2016-2017 Fox Fellow with Yale University, and Mohan J Dutta, professor who heads the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, and they refer to a shocking account of a Filipino woman, described as an “aunt,” who worked for a family in the United States without payment for much of her life. “Even governments in the most developed nations struggle to monitor thousands of workers and signed contracts that stipulate rest hours, sleeping arrangements, allocation of days off, food provisions and salaries,” Kaur-Gill and Dutta write. “Social networks and alert members of the public are key to domestic workers understanding their rights and taking steps to walk away from abusive work.” International and local NGOs are leading in confronting this human rights issue. – YaleGlobal