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Gender and Women's Studies

Migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong: local perceptions and transnational experiences

Elaine Yu (2013); Mentor(s): Pardis Mahdavi

Abstract: The Court of Final Appeal will decide whether the provision excepting foreign domestic workers (who are mostly women from the Philippines and Indonesia) from being eligible for permanent residence in Hong Kong is constitutional. The litigation has stirred anxiety over public spending and urban planning among many legislators and local residents. My project explores whether the legal language of abode adequately reflects the migrants’ experiences as live-in caregivers, and how the emphasis on the court case muffles other pressing concerns related to pay and abuse. I conducted interviews with domestic workers and a range of practitioners in civil society, politics, academia, and human rights law; carried out participant observation at protests, gatherings, and conferences; and volunteered at a shelter and a walk-in services center that also does policy research and advocacy. My findings show that regulations protecting the caregivers have not been duly enforced due to the “invisible” nature of this type of intimate labor, and instances of abuse are common although they usually escape public attention. At the same time, many migrants are increasingly asserting their identities and rights as workers, creating vibrant communities and solidarity networks, while the activist-minded are also locating themselves within broader development and globalization discourses.
Funding Provided by: Schulz Fund for Environmental Studies