On Monday 24 January at 19:30 GMT:
There are an estimated 250,000 domestic workers in Lebanon, and about 99 percent of them are immigrants with work permits. The majority are women from Ethiopia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, earning $ 150 to $ 400 a month.
They work under the kafala – or sponsorship – system, which is compared to modern slavery. The system is a restrictive regime of laws and regulations that bind migrant workers’ legal residence to their employers. Those who leave their employers without permission run the risk of losing their legal residence, and face detention or deportation. The UN, and other human rights groups, have repeatedly called for this to be dismantled.
There have been attempts at reform. Those of Lebanon labor ministry in 2020 accepted a new standard contract for domestic workers that guaranteed overtime pay, sick pay, annual leave and the national minimum wage. It also allowed workers to leave service without the consent of their employer. But to the dismay of legal groups, it was never implemented.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report in January said one of the main reasons for the failure to abolish the system was that for some it was an extremely profitable business. “One study found that the kafala system generates more than 100 million US dollars annually. Recruitment agencies – forced labor and human trafficking – generate $ 57.5 million a year in revenue, ”said HRW.
In this episode, we will once again look at the plight of domestic workers in Lebanon against the backdrop of increasing crises in the country.
In this episode of The Stream we are joined by:
Aya Majzoub, @Aya_Majzoub
Lebanese researcher, Human Rights Watch
Roula Seghaier, @IDWFED
Strategic Program Coordinator, International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF)