Domestic Workers across the globe are vulnerable to abuse, in part because their labor is conducted in the private sphere of the home, a realm officials are reluctant to regulate. Compounded by the Gulf’s sponsorship system, the confined nature of their work renders them over-dependent on employers and creates situations ripe for exploitation; many work over 10-hour days with few breaks, do not receive days off, are unable to leave the house without permission, and are forced to undertake a wide cross-section of duties – usually playing the role of nanny, cook, and cleaner – for very little compensation. Many also suffer physical and verbal abuse from their employers. The weight of these pressures is exacerbated by the difficulty in accessing support from either origin or destination governments as mobility and access to communication (including cell phones and laptops) is tightly restricted.
According to a recent ILO report, the systematic conditions domestic workers face throughout the Gulf are indicative of forced labor. Though individuals are entirely responsible for their conduct towards employees, structural forces instruct and perpetuate violation of domestic workers rights. In particular, domestic workers’ exploitation is tacitly sanctioned by their exclusion from national labor laws. Instead, decrees, amendments, and unified contracts governing domestic work provide only piecemeal, insufficient insufficient protections against exploitation
Gulf states must align prospective unified contracts with international standards, including Convention 189 on Decent Work For Domestic workers, incorporate domestic workers under national labor code to guarantee the full spectrum of their rights and to codify the value of this work.