Sri Lankan migrant women domestic workers: health insurance provision, access to healthcare and health status January 2014 – June 2015


This project explores issues relating to Sri Lankan migrants working as domestic workers in the Gulf States and other Middle Eastern countries. Despite academic studies and reports on the workplace situation of Sri Lankan migrant domestic workers, and media and human rights organisations’ reports of physical, mental and sexual abuse of individual women by employers, the absence of systematic evidence relating specifically to health and access to healthcare is a knowledge gap.

This project will systematically collect and analyse evidence in depth about: 1) the gaps in health insurance provision relating to the entire migration process, including in the implementation of existing health insurance schemes in destination countries for this category of low paid migrant workers; 2) implications for their access to healthcare and health status in the entire migration process; 3) policy or practice barriers to effective insurance provision and to ensuring good health and access to social rights for such migrants, and 4) how to resolve this with reference also to best practices from other migrant domestic worker sending countries in the region. In doing so, it will produce and share knowledge that will contribute to informed policies and best practices that will improve the health of a key category of Sri Lankan migrants.

Principal Investigator

Hiranthi Jayaweera


Elizabeth Shlala (London School of Economics and Political Science & COMPAS Research Associate)
Leelangi Wanasundera (Centre for Women’s Research, Colombo, Sri Lanka)


Open Society Foundations

Professionals' Advisory Group

London School of Economics and Political Science
Centre for Women’s Research, Colombo, Sri Lanka

News & Media

Human rights in health: migrants in low-skilled work in Asia
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Damned if you’re a migrant, damned if you’re not: Sri Lankan female domestic workers
Blog | COMPAS Communications

Forced to work
Sunday Observer | 29 Nov 2015


Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates


GenderHealthLow Skilled MigrationPoliciesRights




Health as a form of border control in defining emigration and immigration policies; the intersection of class and gender inequalities as a barrier to achieving human rights in health.


The methods include semi-structured qualitative interviews with pre-departure and returned migrants, and with a range of stakeholders – e.g. key government officials formulating and implementing policy at national and local levels, recruitment and insurance agents, welfare and healthcare providers, civil society organisations.


Access to Healthcare, Insurance Provision and Health Status of Sri Lankan Migrant Domestic Workers
Reports | Hiranthi Jayaweera, Elizabeth H. Shlala and the Centre for Women's Research (CENWOR) | 2015


Plan for impact include presenting findings to key stakeholders in Sri Lanka and getting input into recommendations to the Sri Lankan government towards providing better health protection to migrant domestic workers.