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Tan, Carol G.S. (2016) 'Enforcing Socioeconomic Rights: Everyday Agency, Resistance and Community Resources Among Indonesian Domestic Workers in Hong Kong.' In: Elias, Juanita and Rethel, Lena, (eds.), The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 218-236.

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There are currently over 320,000 full-time, live-in migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong, the vast majority of whom are from Southeast Asia. In recent years, women from the Philippines and Indonesia have constituted 48 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, of the MDW population, with women from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal making up most of the remainder (Immigration Department 2012). These women and previous generations of women from Southeast Asia account for a significant proportion of the intra-Asia migration of workers, being at the same time a part of the widely observed feminization of migration (see also Elias and Louth, this volume). In the social fabric of Hong Kong, their arrival in ever-increasing numbers, especially since the second half of the 1980s, also marked a sea change in which household chores, child and elder care were commoditized to the extent that in approximately one in eight Hong Kong households an MDW carries out or helps with these tasks. The nature of domestic work, its private location and the dispersal of its workers, very often as single employees in a household, coalesce to produce a vulnerability that is, in many parts of Asia, worsened by live-in arrangements which may have an impact on access to unions or to help and advice. This vulnerability is why the International Labour Organization has identified women domestic workers as one of the three most vulnerable groups of migrant workers (ILO 2004) and why a Domestic Workers’ Convention has now been adopted (ILO number 189). This convention and the longer-standing UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990) have had some indirect impact in Hong Kong in terms of consciousness raising and lobbying. NGOs and migrant workers’ unions, which in Hong Kong are permitted the political space in which to establish themselves and pursue their activities, have invoked both conventions in their ongoing campaigns and, arguably, drawn legitimacy from them in fighting two recent major issues: the exclusion of MDWs from the right of abode (akin to permanent residency) (Vallejos and Domingo v Commissioner of Registration 2011) and the exclusion of domestic work from the minimum wage regulations.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: domestic workers, migrant workers, domestic work, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, migrant labour, law
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Law
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Gender Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > School of Law > Centre of East Asian Law (CEAL)
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Legacy Departments > Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > London Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Science
Regional Centres and Institutes > Centre of South East Asian Studies
School Research Centres > Centre for Asian Legal Studies
ISBN: 9781107122338
Copyright Statement: © Cambridge University Press 2016. This material has been published in 'The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia' edited by Juanita Elias and Lena Rethel, []. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2015 11:46

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