The International Labor Organization (ILO) issued the convention No. 189 in 2011 to set standards for the treatment of women migrant domestic workers (WMDW), and to prevent labor exploitation.1 The convention is made of 27 articles, which include: eliminating all forms of compulsory labor (Article 3), giving WMDW the right to keep their travel documents, giving the freedom of residency and the liberty to leave the household during periods of rest (Article 9), and giving the right to take 24 consecutive hours of weekly rest (Article 10). However, many Arab countries, including Lebanon have not yet ratified this convention. WMDW in Lebanon are still excluded from most laws and policies covering national workers. In general, the legal and policy framework in Lebanon does not provide protection of human and labor rights of WMDW and make them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Lebanon is a middle-income country and one of the top nations relying on WMDW with over 250,000 WMDW working in private households.2 The largest proportion of WMDW comes from Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, with the great majority being recruited through recruitment agencies.3 There is no set minimum wage for WMDW in Lebanon, with salaries ranging from $150-300/month depending on nationality, experience and language proficiency. The recruitment of Bangladeshi (recently also Ethiopian) workers has the lowest cost, as the travel costs are often deducted from their salaries. The recruitment of Filipina workers has the highest cost, as they are smuggled through Gulf countries after the ban that the Philippines had established against domestic work in Lebanon.3 The recruitment process of WMDW through agencies costs employers between $2000-3000, including the costs of travel, visa, residency, work permit, notary fees and health insurance.