Intertwined: A Study of Employers of Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon
Over 250,000 migrant women are employed by private households in Lebanon to carry out household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for children and the elderly. A standard contract for Domestic Workers sets out the basic parameters for the employment relationship, which creates a legal link between the “the worker” and the “employer”. In Lebanon, the employer wields a great degree of power in determining the living and working conditions of a migrant domestic worker (MDW). The inequities are created in part by a normative framework in Lebanon heavily dominated by a sponsorship system, known as kafala. Under kafala a worker’s legal status is linked to one employer and the worker cannot unilaterally exit the employment relationship. The domestic workers’ exclusion from labour legislation and social protection exacerbates the power imbalance.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has published two studies, including this one to provide a stronger evidence base on the practices and perceptions of employers of MDWs in Lebanon. While the other study focuses on the perceptions of MDWs on their living and working conditions, this one focuses on the critical role of employers in recruiting and managing the employment relationship within the current normative framework of Lebanon. Mixed qualitative (29 in-depth interviews) and quantitative methodologies were used to survey 1,200 Lebanese employers of live-in MDWs in Greater Beirut, Saida, Jounie, and Jbeil.