Now that foreign women are doing much of domestic work in countries all over the globe, perhaps the "domestic" will now cross into the realm of the public domain. The person cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry is, after all, no longer mommy, auntie or older sister. It is a Filipina, a Bangladeshi, an Indonesian, an African. And of course a foreign worker could not be bound by invisible ties of love, filial or maternal duty to provide the gift of free service. She must be compensated. And as an autonomous provider of domestic work now commodified, is surely as deserving of rights and protections as one who labours in traditional sectors of the economy.
Providers of reproductive labour - that is, labour necessary to "reproduce" life - now comprise half of the world's migrants to date. The kind of work women do in many societies has traditionally not been accounted for in the measure of productivity. But as women in rich, industrialized countries continue to move from domestic spaces to participate fully in the labour force, someone still has got to take care of hearth and home.
As more and more women seek their fortune by taking care of the children and the elderly of countries not theirs, they suffer a double handicap. First, they have neither the privileges nor the rights conferred by their nationality. Second, the very nature of their work, bounded by the veil of privacy of the home, makes abuse all but a foregone certainty.
For more information, read the Human Rights Watch report on the "Protection of Migrant Workers in Asia and the Middle East."
Fruits of Her Labour
Unpacking Choice and Reproductive Rights