• Tens of millions of women and girls around the world are employed as domestic workers in private households. They clean, cook, care for children, look after elderly family members, and perform other essential tasks for their employers. Despite their important role, they are among the most exploited and abused workers in the world. They often work 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages far below the minimum wage. They may be locked within their workplace and subject to physical and sexual violence. Children and migrant domestic workers are often the most vulnerable.

    A new international treaty – the Domestic Workers Convention – was adopted in June 2011, providing the first global standards to protect domestic workers.

  • Domestic workers in downtown Lima, Peru demonstrate to demand labor protections, June 15, 2012. The placards (L-R) read, “We all have the same dignity and rights” and “We demand the ratification of the 189 ILO Convention.”
    The founding of a global federation of domestic workers is a sign of the growing strength of the movement, and a key moment to assess progress for workers long excluded from basic labor protections. There are an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide – the majority of whom are women and girls, and many of whom are migrants.


  • Abuse and Exploitation of Female Migrant Domestic Workers in the United Arab Emirates
  • Abuses against Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK
  • Domestic Workers’ Movements and Global Advances for Labor Reform

Domestic Workers

  • Jan 29, 2015
    The UAE authorities in 2014 aggressively restricted the rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly, cracking down on dissidents and anyone considered a threat to national security, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015. The authorities also failed to investigate credible allegations that security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured dissidents.
  • Dec 18, 2014
    The kafala visa-sponsorship system that is widely, though not uniformly, used across the Gulf bars most migrant domestic workers from moving to a new job before their original contract ends without their employer’s consent, trapping many in abusive situations. The kafala combined with inadequate labor law protections, create conditions ripe for exploitation and abuse of domestic workers.
  • Nov 24, 2014
  • Nov 23, 2014
    Labor ministers from Gulf and Asian countries meeting on November 26 and 27, 2014, should improve labor law protection, reform abusive immigration policies, and increase dialogue with trade unions and nongovernmental groups, 90 human rights organizations and unions said today.
  • Nov 17, 2014
    The United Kingdom House of Lords should amend a draft law on “modern slavery” to include protections from abuse for migrant domestic workers. The upper chamber of the UK parliament is scheduled to begin its review of the bill on November 17, 2014.
  • Nov 6, 2014
    Sex trafficking gets a lot of attention, as it should. It’s a horrific crime. But trafficking in forced labor is also a grave abuse that has even more victims.
  • Oct 30, 2014
    In Geneva over the next two weeks, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will play an influential role on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Yet Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented how within the UAE migrant domestic workers are exploited by employers and recruiters, while government policies create conditions which foster abuse and forced labour.
  • Oct 24, 2014
    In December 2012, Sadiyah A. (her real name is withheld for her security) migrated from the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates to work as a babysitter. One year later, she sat before me in Abu Dhabi telling me that the job turned out to be no golden opportunity.
  • Oct 23, 2014
    Almost 150,000 female domestic workers are employed in the UAE. Most are Asian, but increasing numbers are from East Africa. While some find employers who treat them well and pay them on time, major gaps in the UAE’s labour laws and restrictive immigration policies — coupled with unethical recruitment in home countries — foster an environment that is ripe for exploitation and abuse.
  • Oct 23, 2014
    “I decided to travel abroad for work to build a house,” Tahira told me. With few options for work in her village in Subang district, West Java, the 28-year-old migrated to the United Arab Emirates in 2012 to become a domestic worker. She had high hopes of making enough money there to support her husband and young son at home in Indonesia. But her dream quickly became a nightmare.