What’s the Problem with Migrant Domestic Workers? And is there a Solution? DAY 167

January 19, 2013 in Equal Money Blog, Equal Money System, World Exposed Blog

And How is Equal Money Capitalism The Solution to stopping the Abuse?

banksy maid Whats the Problem with Migrant Domestic Workers? And is there a Solution? DAY 167Right now, in this moment, on this very day or night were you’re sitting in front of the computer reading this blog, a woman somewhere in the world is cleaning, comforting a sick child waking up at night. She gets up before dawn and goes to sleep after midnight. Her body is aching because she has been standing up all day, carrying groceries, ironing, cooking, vacuuming, and playing with children. She does this all day long, sometimes seven days per week, all year round. And no, she is not a mother. Or she could be. But she is in a strange country and if she does have children, she is away from them, sometimes their entire childhood. She does it so that she can support them; give them food on the table, an education, a future. In the very worst cases, she gets beaten, raped and tortured at a daily basis. She has her passport taken and is given a fictive debt that she can never pay off.  Her suffering is silent because the hard labor she provides is not considered actual work. It is work that women have done for thousands of years free of charge. And no, she is not a prostitute; she is a migrant domestic worker.  And there are millions of her around the world, stuffed away into houses and apartments  around the world, never to be seen or have their voices heard.

So in this blog post, we will be having a look at migrant domestic worker and ask why it is a problem, what the solution is to stopping it is and discuss how everyone, including you and me will be rewarded by stopping migrant domestic work.

Who are Migrant domestic workers?

Migrant domestic workers are most often women from what is known in academic literature as ‘the global south’.  This refers to people from the southern part of the globe, though mostly from Africa, South America and South East Asia. These women travel to ‘the global north’ to work as cleaners, nannies and housekeepers, but also to the Middle East and in particularly to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Hong Kong.  The women often come from Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Thailand, South America or Eastern Europe.  Some also come from Africa. Some even migrate within countries such as China, Kenya or Bolivia where women – and young girls – travel from poor rural areas to the cities to work for families that can afford servants. Sometimes children are sold as slaves to perform domestic work.

What do Migrant domestic workers do?

Migrant domestic workers work in private homes to clean, cook, be a nanny and take care of the house. Sometimes their service is extended to gardening, sexual favors or even providing cleaning to their hosts friends and families. It is not only rich or elitist people who hire migrant domestic workers. It simply depends on how extensive economic inequality there is between people from different parts of the world or even within the same country. In other words: as Global inequality increases, more and more people in the ‘Global North’ are able to afford domestic help while more and more people from the ‘Global South’ will be forced to migrate and take on jobs as domestic workers.  As economic conditions deteriorate in the south people become more desperate and find themselves forced to accept even unreasonable and unacceptable working conditions. And in many cases they will be lured with promises of fortune only to find themselves trapped in a foreign country without a passport and with a huge debt to the agency or agent that provided them with the job.

1 a a a a emp trabalho domest nos eua Whats the Problem with Migrant Domestic Workers? And is there a Solution? DAY 167So what’s the problem with migrant domestic workers?

1.  Inequality amplifies abuse

As global inequality increases and poor women are forced to migrate to work as domestic helpers, it means that their working conditions increasingly becomes more and more abusive. Because the workers is more in need of the work than the employer is of the assistance and therefore the workers can be exploited and taken advantage of because of their vulnerable situation. Their survival and often their entire family back home’s survival depends on them maintaining the job. Meanwhile their western counterparts can pick and choose between truckloads upon truckloads of migrant domestic workers and therefore the relationship between the two is extensively unequal.

2.  The private space enables abuse

At the same time, the workplace is in a private home where the domestic worker often works alone in isolation and perhaps do not even know the language of her host country. This is another factor that leaves the domestic workers vulnerable and targets of abuse. The work is not regulated by authorities and therefore standards of minimum wage and living conditions are not supervised. The families that hire domestic workers can do whatever they want in their own home, including exploit and abuse vulnerable people who are looking for a better life. Families are the root of all evil. Because where else does it start?

3.  The Care chain/Care drain problem

Some of the workers are mothers who are forced to leave their children behind to be raised by other family members or even other nannies, while their mother travels abroad to raise the children of a wealthier household. This is what has become known as the ‘care chain/care drain’ problem.  In the western countries the problem often starts with the women entering the labor force without their country having a public childcare system to make up for the women who are no longer taking care of their children and the home. The consequence of the ‘care chain/care drain’ problem is extensive in that generations of children, on both sides of the economic fence, are being raised by strangers who are taking care of them as part of a job, where their own parents are off, either because of a necessity to survive or because of a need to realize themselves.

4. Housework is not Real Work

It is highly problematic that housework and childrearing is not considered real work. Because the dynamic in the relationship between males and females have shifted so that it is no longer males who are the breadwinners of the families. Often the best chance for the family to get food on the table is for the woman to travel abroad to work as a maid or nanny. But in many countries domestic workers are not included under legal protection or employment regulations.  An example is the American the National Labour Relations Act.[2]  That protects other groups of workers, but not those performing domestic work. For the women on the wealthier side of the fence, the fact that they have stepped into the labor market as fully participating laborers have not changed any governmental actions towards supporting families significantly. Therefore some families find themselves forced to hire help, others do so as a luxury. Often women are expected to be able to handle both demanding careers in companies whose structure was designed for male workers who have a wife at home as well as being a good housewife, cook, lover and mother.

5.  Economic inequality is taken for granted

Migrant domestic work is a global problem as it is literally taking place across the globe. Migrant domestic work is also a result of increased global inequality, where the exploitation of some for the luxury lives of others is taken for granted.  In the end it is quite simply: if you would not want to be in the shoes of a domestic worker, then why would you accept it for someone else? The only explanation is that economic inequality is taken for granted. But economic inequality is not a natural occurrence or development. Because it is us as human beings who have decided and agreed to the economic systems we have today. This also means that we are all responsible, even though we would like to think we are not. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we can change. So – what’s the solution if we don’t want to have people who are exploited to do domestic work and leave their children or people who are forced to hire domestic workers because they can’t do everything at once?

domestic worker suffering Whats the Problem with Migrant Domestic Workers? And is there a Solution? DAY 167So what is the Solution?

1. Change the economic system

The most obvious solution to the problem of migrant domestic work is to change our economic and political systems. Because if the problem is born out of the current system and the way it functions based on inequality, the solution must be to change the system in its entirety – or rather the principle behind it. The solution is to create a system that does not require inequality to function. Within this we got to realize that the current economic system of free market capitalism is not the only way to live on earth. Nor is it the best solution. If it was, it would honor the principle of equal opportunity that capitalism has at the heart of its thought. Because at the moment, equal opportunity is an abstraction that has nothing to do with the real lives of real people. If someone is born into an indebted family they too are indebted, and debt can equally be in the shape of lack of education or someone having a criminal record.  Therefore a first step that is required is to make sure that equal opportunities is given from us as the people on earth to us as the people on earth. To do that we got to vote for a new way of doing this. I suggest investigating Equal Money Capitalism (EMC) as such a solution because it is the most direct, commonsensical and simplistic way to change we system we have now into a system that is sustainable in actually giving everyone equal opportunities.  You can read more about it here.

2. Reversing the need for domestic work

Within a system such as the Equal Money System with an economic model such as Equal Money Capitalism that emphasizes sustainability through equality, we can begin investigating and applying the changes that is required to stop migrant domestic work. Such a solution is to reduce and reverse the need for domestic work. This means that there is a balance for families in western and northern countries where mothers and fathers are now capable of taking care of their lives without requiring the service of someone else.  For this to be possible equalization between males and females is required. Domestic work must be the equal responsibility of the individuals living in a house, no different than taking care of one’s body.  In some homes servants are required because the home itself is simply so big that one or two people simply cannot take care of it themselves. Such cases, with people living in mansions and castles are directly due to a glorification of inequality with pompous displays of spitefulness through abundance. Both of these examples, inequality between men and women and gross displays of wealth requires a reeducation of us as people to come back to earth and practicality as both of these examples is unacceptable. So reeducation is required were people equalize themselves in realizing that they are not more or less worth than one another. A simply solution is that everyone simply cleans up after themselves. This way, very few people would want to live in a huge mansion because they would have to clean it themselves.

3. Reversing the need to migrate for work

In stopping the need for foreign domestic workers, there is a lot of people who in the current system would be without work or any opportunity and who will be stuck in poverty stricken countries with high percentages of the population being unemployed. However in an Equal Money Capitalist system a global initiative will be in place to firstly help the countries out of poverty and secondly assist them in being self-sufficient. When that is establishes the country will support its citizens with work. There will thus not be a need to travel abroad to survive and travelling will be something that one is free to do or not do as one please.

So what do you get out of it?

1. The satisfaction of being equal

When migrant domestic work is stopped, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that there are no women or children or men who are stuffed away into secret being abused and exploited as domestic workers. You will have the pleasure of knowing that all people of the earth will have the exact same opportunities as you do and if you meet someone from a foreign country in your homeland you will know that they are there because they want to be there and not because they have been trafficked or forced.  You won’t have to feel guilty in knowing that people are being exploited in other parts of the world and you won’t have to feel sad and shocked when you hear stories of the abuse that domestic workers are exposed to.

2. The satisfaction of cleaning your own house

If you are super rich or for whatever reason have a migrant domestic worker now, you won’t have that in an Equal Money Capitalist system. But you know what? Maybe you can use this as an incentive to let go of the need to always be bigger and better and show of your lifestyle. Maybe you feel trapped in that huge mansion will all that stuff and maybe your dream is to live in a simple beach hut in Thailand. Maybe you constantly worry, if you have maid, whether she will steal your stuff or even kill you in your sleep. And the guilt. The guilt with stop. And maybe for the first time in your life you will experience the utmost satisfaction it is to clean your own home in careful consideration of your own needs. If you are a career woman who had to hand your child over to a nanny who spoke a different language, you no longer have to worry about your child speaking better Tagalog or Russian than English or whatever your native language is. You will actually be able to spend time with your children, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

3.  No more abuse of domestic workers

Globally speaking we will all be rewarded by no longer accepting for people to be exploited through domestic work. No child or young girl will be forced and tricked into leaving her village to go work for strange people as a house slave. No mother has to leave her children behind so that she can be a nanny for someone else’s. No more do you as a domestic worker have to spend your days ironing, cleaning, and cooking for someone else for no pay.  People will no longer have to take desperate measures to survive or trick each other into accepting crappy jobs in foreign countries. And that is only to mention a few benefits of stopping migrant domestic work.

There are no reasons not to stop migrant domestic work and implementing an Equal Money Capitalist system. It is simply matter of doing the math.

The following is a list of sources through which you can educate yourself further on the topic of Migrant Domestic Work.

Documentaries:

Seek My Face, Hear My Voice – Domestic workers in Hong Kong

http://vimeo.com/18789698

We are Humans: Three Stories of Domestic Workers in Bolivia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXO3gID1iCI

Domestic Workers in Kenya

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMA55WpKgLk

Articles:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/52760.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/24/domestic-workers-abuse-violence?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/if-they-have-your-passport-they-have-your-life/

http://walrusmagazine.com/article.php?ref=2005.03-politics-international-labour-migration&page=

Extended References list:

Archibugi, D. (2008). The global commonwealth of citizens: toward cosmopolitan democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Castels, S. (2010). Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10), 1565-1586.

Doyle, M., & Timonen, V. (2010). Migrant Care Workers’ Relationships with Care Recipients, Colleagues adn Employers. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 17(1), 25-41. Retrieved June 9, 2012, from http://ejw.sagepub.com/content/17/1/25

Fudge, J. (2011). Global Care Chains, Employment Agencies and the Conundrum of Jurisdiction: Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Canada. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 23(1), 235-264. Retrieved June 9, 2012, from http://papers.ssrn.com

Hochschild, A. R. (2000) “Global Care Chains and Emotional Surplus Value” in Hutton, W. and Giddens, A. (eds) On The Edge: Living with Global Capitalism, London: Jonathan Cape, p. 131

Hochschild, A. (2002). Global woman: nannies, maids and sex workers in the new economy. New York, N.Y.: Owl.

Kittay, E. F. (2010). The Global Heart Transplant and Caring across National Boundaries. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 46(1), 138-165.

Magnusson, Charlotta (2009). Gender, Occupational Prestige, and Wages: A Test of Devaluation Theory in: European Sociological Review VOLUME 25 NUMBER 1 2009 87–101

Magnusson, Charlotta (2010). Why Is There a Gender Wage Gap According to Occupational Prestige? : An Analysis of the Gender Wage Gap by Occupational Prestige and Family Obligations in Sweden in: Acta Sociologica 2010 53: 99

Munck, R. (2008). Globalisation, Governance and Migration: an introduction. Third World Quarterly, 29(7), 1227-1246.

Nath, R. (2011). Equal Standing in The Global Community. The Monit, 94(4), 593-614.

Newland, K. (2010). The governance of international migration: mechanisms, processes and institutions. Global Governance, 16, 331-343. Retrieved June 9, 2012, from http://www.iom.int/jahia/webdav/site/myjahiasite/shared/shared/mainsite/policy_and_research/gcim/tp/TS8b.pdf

Päivänsalo, V. (2010). Responsibilities for Human Capabilities: Avoiding a Comprehensive Global Program. Human Rights Rev, 11, 565 – 579.

Sarti, R. (2010). Who cares for me?: Grandparents, nannies and babysitters caring for children in contemporary Italy. Paedagogica Historica, 46(6), 789-802.

Thicker, J. A. (2004). The Gendered Frontiers of Globalization. Globalizations, 1(1), 15 – 23.

Thomsen, A.B, (2012). The Intersectionality of Global Women – Does Gender Matter? How and When? Term paper for the course “Doing Gender”,  Stockholm University 2012

Weir, A. (2010). Global Care Chains: Freedom, Responsibility, and Solidarity. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 46(1), 166–175.

Yeates, N. (2004). Global Care Chains: critical reflections and lines of enquiry. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 6(3), 369–391.. Retrieved June 9, 2012, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1461674042000235573

 

 

 Whats the Problem with Migrant Domestic Workers? And is there a Solution? DAY 167