The employment and working conditions of migrant domestic workers in South East Asia August 2015 - June 2016


ILO – UN women study on ‘The employment and working conditions of migrant domestic workers, as compared to standards in ILO Convention No. 189 and attitudes towards domestic workers in Thailand and Malaysia

This research is being undertaken at time of positive changes in national regulations protecting domestic workers in the context of the adoption of ILO C189 and attempts to further develop indicators of forced labour/trafficking in persons/unacceptable forms of work. It will investigate how to affect social mobilization and public awareness on the rights of domestic workers. The challenges of such an investigation are well known: this is a largely informal sector and the private household is difficult to regulate; domestic workers can be difficult to access, and the more vulnerable they are the more difficult to access; there is no sampling frame so it is not possible to be representative; employers can be reluctant to come forward, and those who do are likely to be unrepresentative in their attitudes and so on.

Principal Investigator

Professor Bridget Anderson, Research Director, COMPAS


Emma Newcombe, Head of External Relations, COMPAS

Will Allen, Research Officer on Public Opinion


International Labour Organisation (ILO)


Malaysia, Thailand


BordersCareCitizenshipGenderLabour MarketsWelfare




The approach of this proposal is to build on existing resources including ILO expertise and contacts and the consultant’s previous experience of researching employers’ attitudes to domestic workers. We propose that empirical research be conducted in the capital cities of each country and one regional site in each country to be identified in collaboration with the ILO. Given the importance of social acceptability in the daily regulation of domestic labour we propose to highlight good practice to raise standards, and to identify particular groups whom one might expect to set examples – e.g. trades union officials, women’s rights campaigners, religious leaders, state representatives. Included in the final report will be case studies exemplifying good and bad practice that can be used by ILO, the media and others in conjunction with outreach activities in the region.


Worker, helper, auntie, maid?
Reports | Bridget Anderson | 2017