Worker, helper, auntie, maid?
Working conditions and attitudes experienced by migrant domestic workers in Thailand and Malaysia
Domestic workers, the vast majority of whom are women and girls, make a critical contribution to societies and economies across the world. Still, domestic work is typically not regarded as work and is often excluded from full protection under labour legislation and social security provisions. It is usually carried out for private households, often without clear terms of employment, leaving workers vulnerable to abuse. Furthermore, domestic work is increasingly done by migrant workers, who may be further disadvantaged by restrictive migration laws and difficult recruitment, emigration and admission procedures. While existing research has focused on the extent of legal protection and employment conditions of migrant domestic workers, research on attitudes and behaviours towards domestic workers is in its nascence.
To obtain more knowledge on the link between attitudes – of both employers and the public – and the working conditions experienced by migrant domestic workers, the ILO and UN Women partnered with the University of Oxford Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) to carry out innovative research in Thailand and Malaysia. The study provides important insights on domestic workers’ perceived role as both family members and workers, and how this affects everything from working hours to wages, freedom of movement and association, and access to social protection. The report concludes with recommendations for policy makers, employers, civil society and the media on how they can contribute to improving the situation of migrant domestic workers in Thailand and Malaysia.