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Report highlights struggles of undocumented female domestic workers

By Maria Weldali - Jun 14,2022 - Last updated at Jun 14,2022

AMMAN — Undocumented female domestic workers are subject to exploitation, intimidation and forced labour, Jordanian NGO Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights revealed in its recent report.

“A lot of domestic workers face massive violations and systematic exploitation, caused by recruitment processes and systems that entrench what female domestic workers experience,” according to a Tamkeen statement sent to The Jordan Times.

On the occasion of International Domestic Workers Day, observed annually on June 16, since the ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (No. 189) in 2011, the report of which The Jordan Times received a copy, focused on the contributions of domestic workers, the principal violations they face during their time in Jordan, and human trafficking cases received by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in 2021.

Additionally, the report called for taking serious measures towards achieving decent working and living conditions for domestic workers in Jordan.

Despite legislative reforms related to domestic workers’ rights and recruitment systems in recent years in Jordan, foreign domestic workers’ chances of obtaining their fundamental human rights are still weak, the report said.

The ILO defines domestic workers as workers who perform work in or for a private household or households. They provide direct and indirect care services, thereby are key members of the care economy. Their work may include tasks such as cleaning the house, cooking, washing and ironing clothes, taking care of children, or elderly or sick members of a family, gardening, guarding the house, driving for the family, and even taking care of household pets.

According to the report, an estimated 52,221 documented female domestic workers lived in Jordan in 2021, of whom 23,742 were Ethiopians, 11,212 were from the Philippines and 7,009 from Bangladesh. 

The reason behind the increase of Bangladeshi workers is the lower cost of recruiting them, compared with domestic workers of other nationalities, the report said.

“Around 30,000 irregular and undocumented foreign female domestic workers work in Jordan,” the report added, pointing out that those workers have left their previous jobs due to various reasons: Non-payment of wages, mistreatment, long working hours, and deprivation of contacting their families. However, some left their jobs due to their unwillingness to work.

Despite providing essential services, domestic workers particularly those working without legal documents are exposed to “various forms of exploitation”, the report said. 

It highlighted that undocumented domestic workers are deprived of being included in social protection programmes.

Starting 2021 and until the end of April this year, Tamkeen received 426 complaints of which the majority was from Ugandan workers. The majority of the workers filed their complaints for withholding their personal documents by their employers or even their recruitment agencies.

“Many female domestic workers are exposed to physical abuse as a result of not fully doing their jobs or due to refusing to work. Others are subjected to verbal abuse,” the report said.

During 2021, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit dealt with 43 cases of suspected human trafficking. The number of victims reached 61, of whom 14 were males and 47 were females.

The report concluded with several recommendations and which included: raising legal awareness among employers and domestic workers, facilitating the transition of domestic workers from one employer to another without having to obtain a waiver from the first employer, and developing an adequate complaint mechanism.

“Better communication with domestic workers is needed and the most important thing is for everyone to recognise their rights,” Mahmoud Ali, an employee at a domestic workers recruitment agency based in Amman, told The Jordan Times on Tuesday.

“We always hear how a domestic worker is experiencing violence or harassment. And that should stop,” he added.

Zawdnish C. an Ethiopian domestic worker who has been living in Jordan for five months, told The Jordan Times that she has been accused several times of theft by her employers, “however when they found that I was not guilty they started being nice to me”.

The Jordan Times contacted the NGO several times, but they were not available to comment.

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