Lesson series 02: Human Rights and Women Domestic Workers

The Issue

The basic issue concerning women domestic workers is that women in the less developed countries in Asia, many with full educational qualifications and even professional training cannot find jobs in their own professions, neither in their own countries, where unemployment is high, nor abroad, due to restrictions on labour migration in possible receiving countries.

Domestic work in the households of the rich(er) has traditionally been one of the principal ways for poor women (and children) to earn some form of remuneration, either in kind or in cash. Since the latter part of the 1970’s, more and more women in Asia are finding themselves in positions of having to supplement or to completely provide for their own or the family’s sustenance. At the same time, the unequal economic and social development — both within societies and among different countries in Asia — led to diminishing employment opportunities for one group of women, but new opportunities for career and affluence for another group of women, who then find themselves unable or unwilling to maintain both family and household duties as well as a job and social life. For the first group of women, moving from the poorer rural regions of their countries to more affluent urban centres, and from their “poorer” countries to the “richer” ones, domestic work has become an economic option which pays more than even professions such as nursing or teaching in countries like the Philippines or Sri Lanka.

Many issues arise from the plight of women domestic workers, whether they are working in their own countries or in foreign countries; working overseas, the exploitation and regular abuse and violence they suffer as workers and women is exacerbated by their tenuous position as migrants.

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