Highlighting the experience of migrant domestic workers in the Arab Gulf region

Gender and Equity

For years leading up to last fall’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, human and labor rights organizations pointed to what they described as the systemic abuse of migrant workers who traveled to the small country on the Arab Gulf to build the stadiums and infrastructure that allowed the global sporting event to take place.

But a new paper by Stanford political science professor Lisa Blaydes draws attention to a lesser-known migrant population in the Arab Gulf region that is perhaps even more vulnerable to exploitation: women who cook, clean, and care for families as domestic workers in private homes. The paper, “ Assessing the Labor Conditions of Migrant Domestic Workers in the Arab Gulf States ,” was published in January 2023 as part of a special ILR Review issue on labor transformation and regime transition in the Middle East and North Africa.

Lisa Blaydes

“There’s so much more attention paid to construction workers,” says Blaydes, one of the core faculty members of the Stanford King Center on Global Development ’s research initiative on gender-based violence in the developing world . “When you go to the Gulf, you see them walking around in their orange jumpsuits. Domestic workers are an invisible population. These women work in homes and may not even have the ability to leave those homes very often.”

In Blaydes’ original survey of several hundred Filipino and Indonesian migrant domestic workers who had previously worked in Arab Gulf states but since returned to their home countries, more than 50 percent of respondents indicated they had been subject to at least one type of abusive situation, with the most common abuses being economic in nature, such as excessive working hours, late payment, and denial of days off. Smaller percentages of women reported having limited access to food (12 percent), forced confinement (7 percent), non-payment of salary (7 percent), denial of medical treatment (6 percent), physical abuse (4 percent), and sexual attacks (2 percent).

According to estimates compiled by the International Labour Organization in 2019, there are millions of migrant domestic workers in Arab Gulf countries—Saudi Arabia alone has more than 3 million—so these percentages represent huge numbers of women (the vast majority of domestic workers are women).  

“This affects so many people,” Blaydes says. “The globalization of care work is really common. If we want to understand the work experiences of lots of women around the world, domestic work is a big part of that.”

Blaydes, who spent time as a child in Saudi Arabia, is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and director of the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University.

Blaydes’ research focuses on social, economic, and political issues in the Middle East. Recently, she has turned her attention to Arab Gulf states, where a majority of workers are migrants and where women most often shoulder the burden of maintaining homes and caring for family. As Gulf states prioritize economic development, including by encouraging women to work outside the home , Blaydes decided to study the experiences of people who would be picking up the slack in the households Arab women leave behind: migrant women.

Arab women’s ability to accept and remain in jobs is “almost conditional” on the presence of migrant women working within their home, Blaydes says.

“There’s a tendency to not think about domestic labor as labor,” she says. But, “to understand issues related to gender and labor and the economy, it wouldn’t make sense to exclude this population.”

For her research, Blaydes designed an original online survey of women in Indonesia and the Philippines—two countries that send large numbers of women to work as domestic workers in Arab Gulf states. Ultimately, 656 women completed the survey, after answering screening questions to determine if they had worked in the Arab Gulf region as domestic workers. Relative to other Arab Gulf countries, Qatar had the fewest reports of abuse per household; Bahrain had the highest.

For her analysis, Blaydes organized the households the women worked for into three groups:

  • Class 1, characterized by relatively low overall likelihood of abuse;
  • Class 2, characterized by a high probability of economic abuse;
  • and Class 3, characterized by the presence of economic abuse and some form of physical abuse.

The vast majority of households—71 percent—were categorized as Class 1; about a quarter of households were characterized as Class 2; and 5 percent of households rose to the level of Class 3. Blaydes found that the likelihood of abuse increases in families with higher numbers of children or where the husband is supporting a second household either because of a divorce or because he has a second wife.

A migrant domestic worker with her employer

The information from this analysis can be helpful, she says, as governments and policymakers try to address the issue of migrant domestic worker abuse, which is made worse by the kafala system of sponsorship used in most Arab Gulf states. Under the kafala system, workers can only work for their employer sponsor for the length of their contract, usually two years. If the employer breaks the contract, the worker’s visa is cancelled, and they are immediately repatriated. This gives employers an incredible amount of power over workers, who may not report abuse for fear of retaliation.

Some efforts at reform are already underway. Blaydes points to the example of the United Arab Emirates, which in 2011 began to allow migrant workers to accept new jobs without approval from their previous employers; according to the International Labour Organization , Qatar enacted a similar reform in 2020 and, specific to domestic workers, has disseminated Know Your Rights materials and hosted panel discussions with workers about potential reforms. Migrant domestic workers also often receive pre-departure training in their home countries about their rights.

Blaydes says her study can ensure that future interventions to prevent abuse of migrant domestic workers—including trainings, discussions, and even direct assistance from the governments of destination countries—are designed for maximum effect. For instance, she says, migrant women should be told in their trainings that the majority of households do not engage in abusive behavior.

“This kind of information could tell you, actually most households are ok,” she explains. “So, if you’re in a bad household, it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s important to know.”

Blaydes says expanding the scope of gender-based violence to include not just family members but domestic workers whose labor takes place inside private homes is crucial to understanding economic and global development.

“People don’t always think of gender-based violence as a topic related to economic development,” she says. “But it’s part of human thriving to not be subject to violence.”

Blaydes says the King Center’s support was integral to her project: It allowed her to conduct a survey large enough to identify women who had worked in Arab Gulf states as migrant domestic workers.

“It’s a unique sample—women who have had this very particular experience,” she says. “I essentially had to screen the entire online sample of women from the Philippines and Indonesia. Without the King Center’s support, I wouldn’t have even been able to run the initial screen to find them.”

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Millions of people around the world are on the move, trying to adapt to life in countries not their own. In some cases this movement is voluntary, as people search for better life opportunities, education, or work. In many more cases, however, the migration is forced, as people flee poverty, civil unrest, and war, or as they search for employment that will simply allow them to survive.

A migrant worker is a person engaged in a remunerated activity in a country of which he or she is not a national. A domestic worker is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as “a wage-earner working in a private household, under whatever method and period of remuneration, who may be employed by one or by several employers who receive no pecuniary gain from this work.” Domestic workers are usually occupied as housekeepers, nannies, cooks, drivers, gardeners, and other personal servants. Some domestic and migrant workers labor under slave-like conditions.

In the last decade there has been an increase in a form of modern-day slavery that is practiced in the “developed” or “first” world: the exploitation of foreign migrant domestic workers. Domestic workers who are taken to other countries by diplomats and corporate executives are among the most abused and vulnerable migrant workers. Although not bought as slaves, fundamental human rights of migrants are frequently violated or ignored. The exploitation can range from wage and hour violations to physical and sexual abuse. In many cases employers have withheld legal documents of migrant workers, thereby restricting their mobility. Domestic workers such as these are not covered by labor protection legislation; that fact combined with language and cultural barriers makes them easy targets for exploitation. The Break the Chain Campaign (formerly the Campaign for Migrant Domestic Workers Rights), an organization that publicizes the plight of these workers in the United States, reports that most domestic workers are poor women from developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who enter the United States on temporary visas. Once paperwork is filed for their visas, international institutions and embassies take a “hands-off” approach to the plight of these domestic workers.

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International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990.

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Highlighting the experience of migrant domestic workers in the Arab Gulf region

by Rebecca Beyer, Stanford University

Highlighting the experience of migrant domestic workers in the Arab Gulf region

For years leading up to last fall's FIFA World Cup in Qatar, human and labor rights organizations pointed to what they described as the systemic abuse of migrant workers who traveled to the small country on the Arab Gulf to build the stadiums and infrastructure that allowed the global sporting event to take place.

But a new paper by Stanford political science professor Lisa Blaydes draws attention to a lesser-known migrant population in the Arab Gulf region that is perhaps even more vulnerable to exploitation: women who cook, clean, and care for families as domestic workers in private homes. The paper, "Assessing the Labor Conditions of Migrant Domestic Workers in the Arab Gulf States," was published in January 2023 as part of a special ILR Review issue on labor transformation and regime transition in the Middle East and North Africa.

"There's so much more attention paid to construction workers ," says Blaydes, one of the core faculty members of the Stanford King Center on Global Development's research initiative on gender-based violence in the developing world. "When you go to the Gulf, you see them walking around in their orange jumpsuits. Domestic workers are an invisible population. These women work in homes and may not even have the ability to leave those homes very often."

In Blaydes' original survey of several hundred Filipino and Indonesian migrant domestic workers who had previously worked in Arab Gulf states but since returned to their home countries, more than 50% of respondents indicated they had been subject to at least one type of abusive situation, with the most common abuses being economic in nature, such as excessive working hours, late payment, and denial of days off. Smaller percentages of women reported having limited access to food (12%), forced confinement (7%), non-payment of salary (7%), denial of medical treatment (6%), physical abuse (4%), and sexual attacks (2%).

According to estimates compiled by the International Labor Organization in 2019, there are millions of migrant domestic workers in Arab Gulf countries—Saudi Arabia alone has more than 3 million—so these percentages represent huge numbers of women (the vast majority of domestic workers are women).

"This affects so many people," Blaydes says. "The globalization of care work is really common. If we want to understand the work experiences of lots of women around the world, domestic work is a big part of that."

Blaydes, who spent time as a child in Saudi Arabia, is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and director of the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University.

Blaydes' research focuses on social, economic, and political issues in the Middle East. Recently, she has turned her attention to Arab Gulf states, where a majority of workers are migrants and where women most often shoulder the burden of maintaining homes and caring for family. As Gulf states prioritize economic development , including by encouraging women to work outside the home, Blaydes decided to study the experiences of people who would be picking up the slack in the households Arab women leave behind: migrant women.

Arab women's ability to accept and remain in jobs is "almost conditional" on the presence of migrant women working within their home, Blaydes says.

"There's a tendency to not think about domestic labor as labor," she says. But, "to understand issues related to gender and labor and the economy, it wouldn't make sense to exclude this population."

For her research, Blaydes designed an original online survey of women in Indonesia and the Philippines—two countries that send large numbers of women to work as domestic workers in Arab Gulf states. Ultimately, 656 women completed the survey, after answering screening questions to determine if they had worked in the Arab Gulf region as domestic workers. Relative to other Arab Gulf countries, Qatar had the fewest reports of abuse per household; Bahrain had the highest.

For her analysis, Blaydes organized the households the women worked for into three groups:

  • Class 1, characterized by relatively low overall likelihood of abuse;
  • Class 2, characterized by a high probability of economic abuse;
  • and Class 3, characterized by the presence of economic abuse and some form of physical abuse .

The vast majority of households—71%—were categorized as Class 1; about a quarter of households were characterized as Class 2; and 5% of households rose to the level of Class 3. Blaydes found that the likelihood of abuse increases in families with higher numbers of children or where the husband is supporting a second household either because of a divorce or because he has a second wife.

The information from this analysis can be helpful, she says, as governments and policymakers try to address the issue of migrant domestic worker abuse, which is made worse by the kafala system of sponsorship used in most Arab Gulf states. Under the kafala system, workers can only work for their employer sponsor for the length of their contract, usually two years. If the employer breaks the contract, the worker 's visa is canceled, and they are immediately repatriated. This gives employers an incredible amount of power over workers, who may not report abuse for fear of retaliation.

Some efforts at reform are already underway. Blaydes points to the example of the United Arab Emirates, which in 2011 began to allow migrant workers to accept new jobs without approval from their previous employers; according to the International Labor Organization, Qatar enacted a similar reform in 2020 and, specific to domestic workers, has disseminated Know Your Rights materials and hosted panel discussions with workers about potential reforms. Migrant domestic workers also often receive pre-departure training in their home countries about their rights.

Blaydes says her study can ensure that future interventions to prevent abuse of migrant domestic workers—including trainings, discussions, and even direct assistance from the governments of destination countries—are designed for maximum effect. For instance, she says, migrant women should be told in their trainings that the majority of households do not engage in abusive behavior.

"This kind of information could tell you, actually most households are ok," she explains. "So, if you're in a bad household, it doesn't have to be that way. That's important to know."

Blaydes says expanding the scope of gender-based violence to include not just family members but domestic workers whose labor takes place inside private homes is crucial to understanding economic and global development.

"People don't always think of gender-based violence as a topic related to economic development," she says. "But it's part of human thriving to not be subject to violence."

Blaydes says the King Center's support was integral to her project: It allowed her to conduct a survey large enough to identify women who had worked in Arab Gulf states as migrant domestic workers.

"It's a unique sample—women who have had this very particular experience," she says. "I essentially had to screen the entire online sample of women from the Philippines and Indonesia. Without the King Center's support, I wouldn't have even been able to run the initial screen to find them."

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Photo essay: In the Philippines, women migrant workers rebuild lives, advocate for each other

Date: 16 September 2016

A global programme by UN Women, “Promoting and Protecting Women Migrant Workers’ Labour and Human Rights”, supported by the European Union and piloted in the Philippines, works to build the capacities of migrant women’s organizations and networks to better serve and assist women migrant workers.

A global programme by UN Women, “Promoting and Protecting Women Migrant Workers’ Labour and Human Rights”, supported by the European Union and piloted in the Philippines, works to build the capacities of migrant women’s organizations and networks to better serve and assist women migrant workers. UN Women spoke with migrant women returnees and community leaders from La Union province, over 260 miles from Manila, where the programme supports various migrant women’s organizations. These are their stories.

55-year old Virginia Carriaga.

“I migrated to the Middle East as a domestic worker because my husband was about to lose his job due to poor health. I worked long work hours—I was the only domestic worker for a household of ten—and endured verbal abuse. There was a time that I didn’t receive any salary for several months…,” shares 55-year old Virginia Carriaga.

After two years of abuse, Carriaga escaped from her last work place in Lebanon, and sought assistance from the Philippines Embassy. Prior to her repatriation, in the two months that she spent at the Embassy-sponsored shelter in Beirut, she became a spokesperson for other women migrant workers. Today, Carriaga is a successful business woman, owner of a variety store in Balaoan, with the assistance and trainings that she received from the government and women migrant workers’ organizations.

Primitiva Vanderpoorten

Primitiva Vanderpoorten, a retired nurse who worked in the United Kingdom for several years, invested her income in properties in her home country. Today she offers her resort hotel in Luna as a venue for meetings of Bannuar Ti La Union, an organization for women migrant workers, where she is a member: “Even as a nurse, I experienced offensive remarks from patients. They would ask why I was in their country and that I should go back to my country.”

Virginia Estepa, a 62-year-old former woman migrant worker

“My son did not finish high school and got involved in delinquent activities. He resented me for leaving him in Philippines. Have I been a bad mother, I asked myself,” shares Virginia Estepa, a 62-year-old former woman migrant worker who now works as a health worker at the barangay (smallest unit in the community) in Naguilian. Like many others, Estepa migrated overseas to provide for her family. As women migrate for work, leaving behind their children, the social cost of the impact on their children is often less known or understood. Research shows that fathers, grandmothers and the extended families care for children left behind.

UN Women’s programme, piloting in three countries—Philippines, Mexico and Moldova—provides trainings to organizations and women migrant workers’ groups

UN Women’s programme, piloting in three countries—Philippines, Mexico and Moldova—provides trainings to organizations and women migrant workers’ groups to strengthen their advocacy skills, knowledge on migrant women’s rights, organizational development, strategic planning and enterprise governance. Women migrant workers’ organizations and groups have been instrumental in providing information that enables women to migrate safely and know how to report abuse or seek assistance.

Carmelita Nulledo, 52, a former domestic worker from Singapore and Hong Kong

The training on organizational development was particularly useful for Carmelita Nulledo, 52, a former domestic worker from Singapore and Hong Kong and now a farmer and volunteer in various organizations. “From the action planning during our training, we have proceeded with mapping and simple surveys in the community. This will generate data about migrant women and inform any local planning and policies to address the needs of women migrant workers,” she shares. Like many of the migrant women impacted by the project, Nulledo volunteers at the local assistance desks for migrant workers and their families. “I had a positive migration experience, and now I am motivated to help others, she adds.

Women migrant workers’ organizations in the Philippines also provide reintegration assistance to returnee women migrants

Women migrant workers’ organizations in the Philippines also provide reintegration assistance to returnee women migrants by providing livelihood and business trainings, and helping them access assistance programmes, such as scholarship for education and training, enterprise development funds, business counseling, legal and psychosocial services provided by the government under the national law and through local ordinances.

Delilah Dulay, 40, works as a master cutter at the Aringay Bannuar Garments Production

Delilah Dulay, 40, works as a master cutter at the Aringay Bannuar Garments Production, which is funded by the Department of Labour and Employment and the local government of Aringay in La Union province and provides decent work for migrant women returnees. Dulay had migrated to Qatar to improve her income. She landed with a domestic worker’s job where she barely slept for two hours every day and was paid significantly less than the salary she was promised. Upon her return to La Union, Dulay underwent trainings through Bannuar Ti La Union as part of the UN Women project and learned about her rights and gained skills as a garment worker.

“Being a member of a women migrant workers’ group helps me and the others find our confidence in facing day to day life and its challenges. We have a common bond stemming from similar experiences,” she says.

Edna Valdez, 58, worked for four years as a domestic worker in Hong Kong under harsh conditions.

Edna Valdez, 58, worked for four years as a domestic worker in Hong Kong under harsh conditions. Today, she is the President of Bannuar Ti La Union. “The main challenge for women migrant workers is that they don’t know what rights they have. Even when there are laws and services in place, they don’t know how to claim their rights or access support. That’s why we lobby the local government units to set up Migrant Desks at each municipal office, in compliance with the national law, where migrants and their families can access information and support,” says Valdez.

Today, she volunteers at the Migrant Desk at San Fernando City La Union three times a week, refers women migrant workers to relevant government units for legal assistance and reintegration support. She also delivers trainings to prospective women migrant workers to help them identify the warning signs and risks of trafficking and illegal recruitment, and how to access legal assistance and support if they are abused.

Edna Valdez, 58, worked for four years as a domestic worker in Hong Kong under harsh conditions.

As of June 2016, 118 women migrant workers have been trained on their rights, and an additional 45 on entrepreneurship management and 49 on organizational development. The pilot programme has developed critically needed capacity of women migrant workers and their groups so that they are able to build upon the gains made so far and continue to advocate for women migrant workers’ rights at the local and national levels.

Credit for all photos: UN Women/Norman Gorecho

[1] UN Women (2016). Filipino Women Migrant Workers Fact Sheet  

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Migrant Workers in Kuwait: The Role of State Institutions

Attiya Ahmad

migrant domestic workers essay

The treatment of migrant domestic workers is one of the defining stories told about the Arab Gulf states. Every year hundreds of news media and human rights reports detailing migrant domestic workers’ experiences of exploitation and abuse circulate globally. The narratives of these accounts are remarkably consistent. They often begin with the story of an impoverished woman from the global South, who, in order to improve the situation of her family, migrates to the oil-rich Gulf states in search of work and a more prosperous future. Confined to the household, she works long, arduous hours, and is subjected to the dictates and whims of her employers, who may withhold her salary, force her to work under unconscionable conditions, or abuse her physically and sexually. Explanations for this occurrence of abuse and exploitation are usually taken as self-evident — having to do with the cruel logic of asymmetrical power relations between the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor, the master and the maid.

This essay, which is based on over two years of research in Kuwait and South Asia, focuses on the changes in how states have sought to govern migrant domestic workers — a realm often elided in these accounts. I argue that in order to effectively redress the situation of migrant domestic workers in Kuwait, and the Gulf more generally, we must account for the gendered ways in which certain migrant populations and categories of work come to be included or disregarded by state institutions, and the important role played by labor recruitment agencies as intermediaries between domestic workers, employers, and governments.

The oil boom of the mid-1970s marks the beginning of domestic workers’ large-scale migration to Kuwait. Flush with petrodollars, Kuwaitis increasingly began hiring women to cook and clean, as well as care for their children and the elderly. Having domestic workers became an expected, often taken for granted part of Kuwaitis’ everyday lives and their understanding of themselves as modern, affluent subjects. Fewer Kuwaiti women, however, were willing or found it necessary to undertake paid domestic work.

Demand for domestic workers was met through the recruitment of women from the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and more recently, East Africa. Wave after wave of these women migrated to the Gulf due to the worsening economic situation of their home countries, a situation that had developed because of their countries’ spiraling trade deficits and foreign debts brought about by oil price hikes. From the mid-1970s to the late 2000s, Kuwait’s migrant domestic worker population grew from 12,000 to 500,000, and the percentage of Kuwaiti households employing domestic workers increased from 13% to 90% . [1]

Kuwaiti state institutions were initially unable — and unwilling — to manage this burgeoning population. Led by the Al Sabah family, the country’s ruling elite, state formation in Kuwait was focused on two interrelated objectives: the control and distribution of the country’s oil revenues through the development of state welfare institutions, and the production and consolidation of Kuwait’s national body through the activities of these rentier state institutions. [2] Kuwait’s private sector was carved out in contradistinction to the state, one ceded to the country’s influential merchant families and nascent entrepreneurial class. [3] Within this context, the everyday governance of migrants working in the private sector became the responsibility of their kafeel — citizens who sponsored, employed, and acted as guarantors for migrant workers. [4]

Similar to construction workers, street cleaners, sales associates, company managers, and other migrant worker populations, migrant domestic workers’ everyday activities were regulated by the kefalah system. Domestic workers, however, did not fall under the purview of Kuwait’s labor laws. Kuwait’s labor laws were passed in 1964, before the large scale influx of migrant domestic workers. Similar to labor laws throughout the world, domestic work was excluded from the provisions of Kuwait’s labor laws. A gendered understanding of “labor” underpins these laws, one in which work undertaken within the household, the work of social reproduction, is not considered “labor.”

Despite this, domestic workers who experienced problems — an estimated 10% of the total population, the bulk of which pertain to salary or contract disputes (7-8%) and the rest to incidents of physical and sexual abuse (2-3%) [5] — were not without recourse. They could file criminal charges in situations of physical or sexual abuse, and file civil legal cases related to contract disputes. Few did so, however, due to language barriers, and to the widespread perception that the courts were favorably disposed towards Kuwaiti citizens, or were unable to properly address the types of contracts disputes domestic workers had. More often than not, when disputes or conflicts arose, domestic workers would seek informal assistance from friends and family members (should they have any in Kuwait), or formal assistance from embassies, officials, or representatives from labor recruitment agencies.

Under increasing pressure from their embassies, overseas citizens, and informed domestic populations, the governments of labor-sending countries began adopting policies to redress the situation of their migrant domestic worker populations in the Gulf. [6] Formerly, labor-sending states had played a minimal role in these matters. The reasons were myriad and overlapping: governments typically focused on the policing of migrants coming into their countries rather than those leaving; they were concerned with the governance of populations within their borders; they have limited jurisdiction to assist citizens residing abroad; and the state institutions of these countries had been systematically dismantled or crippled by years of structural adjustment programs in financing their foreign debts.

The policies that these governments eventually adopted — restricting or banning the outmigration of women to the Arab Gulf states, and imposing stipulations on domestic workers’ contracts — had limited, and in many cases contradictory effects. Labor-sending states had little capacity to enforce contract stipulations, and with the exception of Pakistan, the out-migration of women from these regions continued unabated. Migrant domestic workers circumvented restrictions placed on their out-migration by traveling via third party countries. [7] Considered illegal by their home countries, their journeys to the Arab Gulf states became more hazardous, subject to the workings of grey and black markets, and the arbitrary actions of government officials at the interstices of these realms. Once in Kuwait, these migrant women could no longer, or could not easily, seek the assistance of their home country embassies.

Faced with dwindling options in the face of difficulties, domestic workers began seeking assistance from the Kuwaiti labor agencies involved in their recruitment. Initially conceiving of themselves as market intermediaries, these agencies increasingly (and in many cases reluctantly) started to take on state-like functions. They mediated and adjudicated problems between domestic workers and their employers. They developed systems to ensure domestic workers’ regular and timely pay. Some also established temporary lodging facilities (i.e., shelters), provided legal assistance, and started insurance programs for domestic workers. In Kuwait, labor agencies also developed a union responsible for coordination between and the policing of members, and for lobbying and coordinating collaborative efforts with state governments. In the late 2000s, they played an instrumental role in the passing of new laws related to migrant domestic workers — laws which included a minimum wage requirement, stipulated work hours, and rest times, and that outlined the responsibilities of both domestic workers and their employers. Labor agencies also became the intermediaries through which labor-sending states began overseeing and regulating the situation of their migrant domestic worker population in the Gulf. Labor agencies had to register with Labor and Foreign Affairs Ministries within labor-sending states, and had to receive permission from these institutions before seeking to recruit women from these countries. Labor agencies acquired these permits only by passing the evaluations conducted on an ongoing basis by embassy officials overseas.

The focus of much reporting on the situation of domestic workers in the Arab Gulf region is on their relationships with their employers. Extending labor laws and abolishing the kefalah system are often presented as means of redressing the exploitation and abuse experienced by these migrant women. In this essay, I have discussed briefly issues elided and presupposed by these reports; namely, the difficulty state legal systems have had in recognizing domestic work as “labor” due to gendered understandings of the term, the problems state legal systems have had in adjudicating this realm of work, and the willingness — and capacity — of states to reform the kefalah system and improve the everyday experiences of migrant domestic workers. In discussing these matters, this essay also has underscored the significant role played by labor recruitment agencies in the formation of Kuwait’s domestic work sector. Their activities, in turn, point to the important role played by state-like institutions in not only knitting together global processes, but in mediating and facilitating state institutions’ ability to expand their governance of their transnational citizens in a global context.

[1] . Nasra Shah et al., “Foreign Domestic Workers in Kuwait: Who Employs How Many,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal , Vol. 11, No. 2 (2002), pp. 247-69.

[2] . Jill Crystal, Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990); and Jill Crystal, Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992) .

[3] . Crystal, Oil and Politics in the Gulf and Kuwait: The Transformation of an Oil State .

[4] . Anh Nga Longva, Walls Built on Sand: Migration, Exclusion and Society in Kuwait (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997); and Anh Nga Longva, “Keeping Migrant Workers in Check: The Kafala System in the Gulf,” Middle East Report, No. 211, Trafficking and Transiting: New Perspectives on Labor Migration (Summer 1999), pp. 20-22.

[5] . This figure was one widely used and circulated by embassy officials, human rights activists, labor agencies, ministry officials, police officers, lawyers, and others involved in Kuwait’s domestic work sector.

[6] . Examples include: 1) migration restrictions and bans passed by the governments of Pakistan (mid and late 1970s), Bangladesh (early 1980s), India (early 1990s and late 1990s), the Philippines (late 1980s), and Nepal (late 1990s); and 2) contract stipulations passed by the governments of Pakistan (mid-1970s), India (mid-1990s and 2007), the Philippines (2006), Sri Lanka (fall 2007), and Indonesia (fall 2007).

[7] . For example, Nepali women traveled via India, and Indian women traveled via Sri Lanka.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here .

Migrant workers still at great risk despite key role in global economy

People cross the Suchiate River between Guatemala and Mexico.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the key role that migrant workers play in the global economy, as well as the “terrible risks” that they are forced to take, to find work.

According to the new International Organization for Migration ( IOM ) Global Migration Indicators (GMI) 2021 report, launched on Thursday, over the past decade migrants in the worldwide labour force have tripled.

IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) also flagged that remittances sent home to lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) have outpaced foreign aid.

The analysis featured on the Global Migration Data Portal , provides snapshots of the latest statistics and trends, including the impacts of COVID-19 on mobility.

For example, remittances made up more than 25 per cent of total GDP last year in El Salvador, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Tonga.

“The availability of timely and reliable data can help us maximize the potential of migration for development ”, said Ugochi Daniels, IOM Deputy Director General for Operations.

Demand rising

Migration trends at a glance.

More people than ever live in a country they were not born in.

More than one billion people are on the move.

Many migrate out of necessity.

One in 30 people is a migrant.

One in 95 is forcibly

As exemplified by the many roles of migrants considered ‘essential’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report highlights an increase in demand for their labour.

Foreign doctors account for 33 per cent of the United Kingdom’s physicians, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and there is an overall reliance on foreign healthcare workers in Europe and the United States.

Surge in overseas workers

Remittances by overseas migrant workers to their home countries are increasingly critical for families and the wider economy.

There are nearly 170 million foreign workers globally, according to the latest IMO estimates – more than triple the 53 million registered in 2010.

And foreign-born workers play a growing role in the labour force, making up an estimated five per cent of today’s global workforce.

“As we celebrate International Migrants Day this week, this report stands as a clear reminder of the role migrants play in the development of their communities worldwide”, said Frank Laczko, GMDAC Director.

“But while the global economy continues to rely heavily on migrant workers, people continue to face terrible risks when they cannot access legal pathways in their search for better opportunities.”

Migrant safety

While migration policies are difficult to measure, the data available show a trend toward limiting safe, legal migration options .

🆕 Global Competency Standards for #HealthWorkers will provide quality, culturally sensitive care to migrants and refugees, a 🔑 step towards achieving #HealthForAll, including for people on the move.👉 https://t.co/W0rOzuud4Q pic.twitter.com/sZ62jr547n World Health Organization (WHO) WHO

While 81 per cent of the countries participating in IOM ’s  Migration Governance Indicators  (MGI) have at least one government body dedicated to border control, just 38 per cent have a defined national migration strategy, with only 31 per cent aligning it with a national economic development strategy.  

“This reports highlights…the invaluable contributions migrants have in our communities and economies, and the need for concrete action to increase legal channels”, Ms. Daniels said.

Setting global standards

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organization ( WHO ) published the agency’s new  Global Competency Standards for refugee and migrant health services  to strengthen countries’ ability to provide services to refugees and migrants by defining markers to be incorporated into health workers’ education and practices.

“While facing similar health risks to their host communities, refugees and migrants may have specific health needs and are often vulnerable to adverse health outcomes due to their mobility, living and working conditions”, said Santino Severoni, Director of the WHO Health and Migration Programme.

The health workforce has a vital role in providing inclusive services that are respectful of cultural, religious, and linguistic needs, said the UN health agency.

“Refugees and migrants face obstacles in accessing people-centred and culturally sensitive health services in both countries of transit and destination. These can include…restricted use of health services, all of which shape their interactions with the host country’s health system”, said the WHO Director.

The document is accompanied by a Curriculum Guide to support its operationalization.

The competencies can be tailored to various environments and take into consideration the requirements and constraints of local health systems as well as the characteristics of diverse refugee and migrant populations.

“2021 is the International Year of Health and Care Workers ”, reminded Jim Campbell, Director of WHO’s Health Workforce Department.

“The same workers must be supported with a competency-based education, as outlined in the Standards…to take us a step closer towards universal health coverage for all populations, including for refugees and migrants”.

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Essay On Migrant Domestic Workers

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Workplace , Human Resource Management , People , Family , Lebanon , Middle East , Families , Lebanese

Words: 1600

Published: 03/08/2023

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The article “Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon: An unjust system, how should individuals act?” by Siba Harb is in the context of Lebanon and highlights about the exploitation of the domestic workers who work for Lebanese families. There are 200,000 people who are currently employed by Lebanese families; these people belong to the poor countries like the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and they are able to stay in Lebanon on a work visa. These people are mistreated by the recruitment agents in their home countries, and once they are in Lebanon, they are again mistreated in the form of non-provision of fair work rights by their sponsors. The author presents two options to prevent this exploitation; one is to stop sponsoring these people so that no one can exploit them and second is to sponsor them and sent humane working terms. The second argument as an option is much more logical and practical because people would be able to earn a decent wage without getting mistreated. Lebanon is situated in the Middle East and is not a very prosperous country when it comes to economic and financial stability. The wealth of the nation is stagnated in a few hands, and these hands are responsible for running both the business and the government of the country. The power distance in Lebanon is on the higher side which means that the less fortunate or, the less powerful have agreed upon and have accepted that they are inferior to those who rule over them and that they will always remain the same. The rich families in the country, however, are very fortunate to be living in a country in which there is little influence of law on the wealthy.

Introduction and Background:

The article “Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon: An unjust system, how should individuals act?” by Siba Harb is based on Lebanon and details about the misuse of the poor domestic workers who work for the Lebanese people.

Difference in Rights of Workers:

The issuer of this visa is the sponsor, the family that is using the services of these domestic workers. The issuer also has the liberty to decide on the working terms with these workers as per their requirement and demand because the contract does not come under the labor law of Lebanon. Hence, the rights reserved by the workers of this sort are not the same as those reserved by a local Lebanese worker. This includes the provision of a minimum wage according to the law and provision of safe and inhabitable living environment.

Role of Lebanese Families in the Issue:

Unfortunately, the Lebanese families do not make an effort in improving the lifestyle and compensation of these domestic workers. Because most of these workers are women, they are usually afraid of getting beaten up by their masters. Furthermore, they are very under-educated and hence are unable to manage themselves on their own in the unfamiliar state where they are reliant solely on their sponsor for everything.

Opinions Presented by the Author:

Option A by the Author: Rationale Behind the Option A: She believes that the inhumane treatment that is carried out towards these migrants while they are on their way is very heartbreaking as they are treated and transported like animals who fall ill and even die on their way due to poor conveyance methods. The recruitment procedures in the home countries of these workers cannot be stopped. These procedures are very dehumanizing according to the author.

Recruitment Agents:

These workers have to go through agents who carry out the activity of supplying these workers to Lebanese families. These agents mistreat these people in their home countries by asking them for money in exchange to preferring them to be sent to Lebanon. The people of these poor countries are in such bad shape that they find slavery in Lebanon as the best source of their income. This is exploited by these agents as they make money from these people and send them to Lebanon where they are treated slightly better than slavery as per the author’s comments. According to her, if the people take the initiative and stop demanding these workers, then the inhumane activities cannot take place at the front or the backstage.

Option B by the Author:

Another option that she presents for stopping inhumane treatment of domestic workers in Lebanon that people can do on their individual levels is that they can employ these people to work in their homes but settle kind and relaxing terms with them that are at a humane level. This would mean that the pain that these people went through while in the recruitment process or that of traveling ends there.

Rationale of the Author Behind Option B:

The sponsor should set the wages and working rights of these people in a fair manner that they are the same and equal to the rights enjoyed by the local workers of Lebanon. This would enable these workers to spend a normal life that is less exploited and at a humane level. This way, at least the workers who have left their families far behind for little money can earn a decent wage to send back home and live respectfully.

Personal Argument to Resolve the Issue:

The option B presented by the author is a much more solid and very practical solution to this issue that can be done at an individual level. Although, the actions of an individual do not shift the tide of the entire society very quickly, but they do start making a difference. The people who find a need to employ a domestic worker can sponsor a worker from a poor country but settle good and fair terms with him or her so that he or she can make this opportunity worthwhile.

Why is Option B Preferable over the Alternative?

This argument is stronger as compared to the option one presented by the author because of its practicality. It can be argued that even of the demand is diminished and the people become aware and stop sponsoring these workers from overseas; the exploitation carried out against these people will only change shape. Because these people have virtually nothing to do back in their own countries, refraining from sponsoring these people would seemingly be a further increase in the problems for these people as they would lose the only source of income that they might have. One thing that has to be understood here is that the people who work in Lebanese families are neither smuggled in nor are they there by force. These are people who are willing to work as slaves in rich families’ homes so that they can earn a decent wage and send some livelihood back to their homes. Given the fact that there is such a condition of these people back home, it is almost inevitable that the agents in their countries that are already exploiting them would further keep on doing so. In fact, if the Lebanese families stop sponsoring these workers, their wages would plunge even further because they would lose their demand and bargaining power. Therefore, it is a very impractical thing to do, to stop sponsoring domestic migrant workers in Lebanon. The best practice would be to keep sponsoring them but setting fair terms of working with them. This would ensure that the migrants get paid a decent wage for their work, enough money that justifies their sacrifice that they have made in the form of staying away from their families and homes whilst working in other people’s homes as full-time employees. This is a practical thing to do for a Lebanese family that they take good care of the worker who is working in their home and that they pay them a decent wage. They can also go the extra mile and occasionally help their worker in taking care of his or her family by providing financial help to the worker for their child’s education and for medical treatments. It is not improbable that the initiative taken by a single person cannot spread wide into the society. When people notice positive behavior and treatment of a sponsor towards his or her worker from overseas, there is developed a tendency amongst the other people in the society that they can do good too. Hence, the entire society would gradually get encourage to have positive treatment towards these workers. It is on the part of every person who lives in Lebanon and demands the service of a domestic worker from overseas that they establish fair terms of working with their workers and these terms should not be exploitative towards these people so that they can benefit from their initiative of coming to work from so far away. There is nothing to lose for the Lebanese families who accommodate the workers of poor overseas countries in fact they can expect the vision of the entire society to change with the help of their initiative.

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Immigrant workers are helping boost the U.S. labor market

By kate rogers,cnbc • published may 3, 2024 • updated on may 3, 2024 at 3:04 pm.

  • Immigrant workers made up 18.6% of the workforce last year, a new record, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  • Many of those workers are taking open positions in agriculture, technology and health care, fields where labor supply has been a challenge.
  • The government predicts that the influx of immigrant workers will grow gross domestic product over the next decade by $7 trillion.

The strong jobs market has been bolstered post-pandemic by strength in the immigrant workforce in America. And as Americans age out of the labor force and birth rates remain low, economists and the Federal Reserve are touting the importance of immigrant workers for overall future economic growth.

Immigrant workers made up 18.6% of the workforce last year, a new record, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Workers are taking open positions in agriculture, technology and health care, fields where labor supply has been a challenge for those looking to hire.

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Despite the U.S. adding fewer-than-expected jobs in April, the labor force participation rate for foreign-born workers ticked up slightly, to 66%.

"We don't have enough workers participating in the labor force and our birth rate has dropped down 2% last year from 2022 to 2023. ... These folks are not taking jobs. They are helping to bolster and helping us build back — they're adding needed workers to the labor force," said Jennie Murray, CEO of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan nonprofit advocacy organization. 

The influx of immigrant workers is also a projected boost to U.S. output, and is expected to grow gross domestic product over the next decade by $7 trillion, Congressional Budget Office Director Phillip Swagel noted in a February statement accompanying the 2024-2034 CBO outlook .

migrant domestic workers essay

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"The labor force in 2033 is larger by 5.2 million people, mostly because of higher net immigration. As a result of those changes in the labor force, we estimate that, from 2023 to 2034, GDP will be greater by about $7 trillion and revenues will be greater by about $1 trillion than they would have been otherwise. We are continuing to assess the implications of immigration for revenues and spending," Swagel wrote.

'Huge competition'

Goodwin Living, a nonprofit faith-based elder-care facility in Northern Virginia that cares for 2,500 adults day to day, is heavily reliant on immigrant workers. Some 40% of its 1,200 workers are foreign-born, representing 65 countries, according to CEO Rob Liebreich, and more workers will be needed to fill increasing gaps as Americans age and need assistance. 

"About 70% of 65-year-olds are expected to need long-term care in the future. We need a lot of hands to support those needs," Liebreich told CNBC. "Right now, one of the best ways that we see to find that is through people coming from other countries, our global talent, and there's a huge competition for them."

In 2018, Goodwin launched a citizenship program, which provides financial resources, mentorship and tutoring for workers looking to obtain U.S. citizenship. So far, 160 workers and 25 of their family members have either obtained citizenship or are in the process of doing so through Goodwin. 

Wilner Vialer, 35, began working at Goodwin four years ago and serves as an environmental services team lead, setting up and cleaning rooms. Vialer, who came to the U.S. 13 years ago from Haiti, lost his job during the pandemic and was given an opportunity at Goodwin because his mother had been employed at the facility.

He applied for U.S. citizenship before getting his current job, but after he worked there for six months, the Goodwin Living Foundation covered his application fee of $725, the nonprofit said. Vialer became a U.S. citizen in 2021, and his 15-year-old daughter received a citizenship grant and became a U.S. citizen in 2023.

Vialer's hope is to have his wife join the family from Haiti, as they have been separated for six years.  

"This program is a good opportunity," Vialer said. "They help me, I have a family back home. ... This job really [does] support me when I get my paycheck to help them back home."

Workers are not required to stay with Goodwin after becoming U.S. citizens, but those who do stay are there 20% longer than those who do not participate in the program, Liebreich said. Speeding up the path to citizenship is key to remaining competitive in a global economy, he added.

"If we want to attract and retain this global workforce, which we desperately need, we need to make the process a lot easier," Liebreich said.

Looking ahead to November, immigration will be a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail and for voters. Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have made trips to the southern border in recent months to address the large number of migrants entering the country.

Also on CNBC

  • Jobless rates rise in April for all racial groups except Black Americans
  • U.S. job growth totaled 175,000 in April while unemployment rose to 3.9%
  • Turkey's inflation accelerates to nearly 70% in April

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Spain sees US-style economic boost from immigrant workers

  • Medium Text

Spain sees US-style economic boost from immigrant workers

  • Skilled immigrants helping Spain's economy outpace European peers
  • Foreigners helping to plug skill gaps in Spain's job market
  • Tech, hospitality sectors have seen large increase in foreigners
  • Latin Americans integrate easily due to shared culture, language

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COMMENTS

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    migrant domestic workers is a particularly stark illustration of the need for transnational governance in an era of globalization. ... essay draw primarily on Asia and the Middle East.

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  4. The mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers

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  5. Highlighting the experience of migrant domestic workers in the Arab

    A migrant domestic worker with her employer, Kuwait City, September 2022 | Credit: Lisa Blaydes. The information from this analysis can be helpful, she says, as governments and policymakers try to address the issue of migrant domestic worker abuse, which is made worse by the kafala system of sponsorship used in most Arab Gulf states. Under the kafala system, workers can only work for their ...

  6. Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity Politics

    A Review Essay. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 May 2003. Annelies Moors. Show author details Annelies Moors Affiliation: ... Transnational migrant domestic workers and the continuum of exploitation and precarity. Capital & Class, Vol. 48, Issue. 1, p. 119.

  7. 3. Hong Kong: The precarious lives of domestic workers in a global city

    ABSTRACT. This paper examines the public routines through which migrant domestic workers inhabit a global city such as Hong Kong. Using 'public outings' as a conceptual entry point to understanding migrants' mobile geographies of dwelling, it seeks to present such migrants as ordinary urban actors who inhabit, share and shape the city landscape every day just like many others.

  8. Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity Politics

    domestic workers to work on a live-in basis tied to one particular employer, lim-iting the duration of the labor contract, and explicitly forbidding permanent set-tlement and family reunification (see for instance Constable 1997 for Hong Kong). Despite such measures, considerable sensitivities about the employ-ment of migrant domestic workers ...

  9. Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity Politics

    If in the 1970s modernization theorists predicted the demise of paid domestic work, developments during the last two decades have proven them wrong. Both in the North and in the South the number of those engaged in paid domestic work has grown rapidly. In some cases, like China and India, intra-state migration is predominant. Elsewhere, in the United States, Canada, and Western-Europe, as well ...

  10. Full article: Immobilisation of migrant domestic worker women and their

    Immobilisation of migrant women and their children in Lebanon. The kafala exists to limit the social and physical mobility rights of migrant workers within Lebanon (Abdul Reda, Fraser, and Khattab 2023 ). This study highlights the way in which it also immobilises migrant workers who want to leave.

  11. Migrant Female Domestic Workers: Debating the Economic, Social and

    Migrant Female Domestic Workers: in Singapore 121. parents if women are to engage in waged work; and Singapore's human resources need to be put to optimal use. Counterarguments to government proposals to curb the influx of foreign maids and rely on alternative measures to help Singapore women alleviate the.

  12. Domestic & Migrant Workers

    Domestic workers who are taken to other countries by diplomats and corporate executives are among the most abused and vulnerable migrant workers. Although not bought as slaves, fundamental human rights of migrants are frequently violated or ignored. The exploitation can range from wage and hour violations to physical and sexual abuse.

  13. Highlighting the experience of migrant domestic workers in the Arab

    The paper, "Assessing the Labor Conditions of Migrant Domestic Workers in the Arab Gulf States," was published in January 2023 as part of a special ILR Review issue on labor transformation and ...

  14. Peer Support and Mental Health of Migrant Domestic Workers: A Scoping

    The effectiveness of peer support in improving mental health and well-being has been well documented for vulnerable populations. However, how peer support is delivered to migrant domestic workers (MDWs) to support their mental health is still unknown. This scoping review aimed to synthesize evidence on existing peer support services for improving mental health among MDWs. We systematically ...

  15. Migrant domestic workers

    Source: Domestic workers across the world: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection, International Labour Organization.Geneva. 2013. Domestic work is a highly gendered profession. Globally, 83% of domestic workers are women, of whom a majority are women migrant workers. However, due, to "the heterogeneity, irregularity and invisibility of domestic and care work ...

  16. Photo essay: In the Philippines, women migrant workers rebuild lives

    In the past two decades, an annual average of 172,000 Filipino women [] have left the country as migrant workers, in the quest for decent work and adequate income.While majority of male Filipino migrants are production workers, women migrate predominantly as domestic workers and are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

  17. The Human Rights of Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK

    Migrant domestic workers in the UK are distinctively vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human rights' violation. This paper observes that migrant domestic workers are likely to have their rights to non-discrimination, freedom from forced labour and work violated. It attempts to provide a remedy to such actual or potential violations through ...

  18. (PDF) Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity

    PDF | On Apr 1, 2003, Annelies Moors published Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity Politics, and Family Relations. A Review Essay | Find, read and cite all the research ...

  19. Migrant Workers in Kuwait: The Role of State Institutions

    The treatment of migrant domestic workers is one of the defining stories told about the Arab Gulf states. Every year hundreds of news media and human rights reports detailing migrant domestic workers' experiences of exploitation and abuse circulate globally. The narratives of these accounts are remarkably consistent. They often begin with the story of an impoverished woman from the global ...

  20. (PDF) Attitudes towards migrant workers in South Africa: A critical

    and Adebiyi (2020), an estimated 2 million foreign-born migrants of working age (15-64) were. living in SA in 2017, repr esenting 5.3 % of the South African labour force, and to date, the ...

  21. Migrant workers still at great risk despite key role in global economy

    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the key role that migrant workers play in the global economy, as well as the "terrible risks" that they are forced to take, to find work. According to the new International Organization for Migration ( IOM) Global Migration Indicators (GMI) 2021 report, launched on Thursday, over the past decade ...

  22. ILO launches a photo essay on migrant workers

    As an effort to document the lives and migration experiences of Indonesian migrant domestic workers, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is going to launch a photo essay titled "The Long Road Home: Journeys of Indonesian Migrant Workers" on Thursday, 29 September 2011, from 14.00 - 17.00 WIB, at Teater Kecil, Taman Ismail Marzuki ...

  23. Migrant Domestic Workers Essay

    Check out this awesome Essays On Migrant Domestic Workers for writing techniques and actionable ideas. Regardless of the topic, subject or complexity, we can help you write any paper!

  24. Immigrant workers are helping boost the U.S. labor market

    The influx of immigrant workers is also a projected boost to U.S. output, and is expected to grow gross domestic product over the next decade by $7 trillion, Congressional Budget Office director ...

  25. Spain sees US-style economic boost from immigrant workers

    Instead, migrant job growth has been in technology or science, which more than doubled to 109,000 in 2023 from 2018. Immigrants working in hospitality rose by 30% to 525,000 in 2023 from 2007 ...

  26. Migrant workers in Singapore left in limbo after paying large sums to

    Migrant workers' rights group TWC2 said that it offered legal assistance to the second worker. MOM told TODAY that under the Employment Agencies Act 1958, organisations and individuals who place jobseekers with employers within or outside of Singapore must obtain an employment agency licence to operate in Singapore.