Coming from African and Southeast Asian countries, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are at an at an all time high, estimated to be between 200,000 and 250,000. Considering how many households in Lebanon hire female migrant domestic workers to help around the house, an unfortunately large number treat their workers like slaves.
Why? These workers are excluded from the Lebanese Labor Law, denying them basic labor rights including minimum wage, annual and sick leave, regulated working hours and the right to terminate the employment contract.
Lebanese NGO KAFA, in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International, launched the Think About It campaign, aimed at changing the way these migrant domestic workers are treated. Considering the workers’ residence and work permit are governed by the Kafala system, otherwise known as a sponsorship system, the employers’ perception is that they have the right to exercise complete power over the workers as they are their “sponsor.”
The Think About It campaign is based on a nation-wide survey conducted by the American University of Beirut, exploring the perceptions, attitudes and practices of the employers.
Here’s what the study found:
41 percent of the Lebanese consider a migrant domestic worker to have psychological problems, but have no problem with her staying with their parents when they’re away
51 percent of the Lebanese consider a migrant domestic worker untrustworthy, but have no problem with her staying with their kids
27 percent of the Lebanese consider a migrant domestic worker to be unclean, but have no problem with her cleaning and cooking
36 percent of the Lebanese consider a migrant domestic worker to be stupid, but have no problem with her managing the household in their absence
Employers delegate a bunch of responsibilities to the workers, including cooking and taking care of the kids, which is not a part of their actual job, and still say they do not trust these workers. KAFA has released a series of videos highlighting these contradictions.
It’s time we start thinking about the things we say versus the things we do. These workers have only helped us in our homes, don’t forget that! #GetYourFactsStraight