Forced to Live in the Employer’s House: A Comparative Study of Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong and Singapore
In Hong Kong there are currently about 380 thousand migrant domestic workers (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Immigration Department, 2018) and in Singapore there are currently about 260 thousand (Singapore Ministry of Manpower, 2018). They often suffer abuse. Many experts believe that the live-in rule, which in both cities requires them to live in their employer’s home, is one of the factors that contribute to the abuse of these workers. Through interviews with key advocates of migrant domestic workers and comparing Hong Kong and Singapore, this thesis explores the different interests that various actors attach to advocacy for domestic worker rights, using the live-in rule as a focal point. In Hong Kong, where migrant workers can organize and bring their own voices to advocacy, migrant domestic workers are vigorously acting to challenge structural oppression and discrimination. There are also abundant local civil society actors that support and act in solidarity with migrant domestic workers. However, in Singapore, where migrant workers cannot join public protests, migrant domestic workers are absent from campaigns that aim to benefit these workers. The findings indicate that in Hong Kong, the live-in rule is understood as a regulation that fosters discrimination and strengthens systematic oppression against migrant domestic workers. On the contrary, in Singapore, migrant domestic workers cannot join public protest, and therefore, the live-in rule is understood primarily as an issue of space and cost and does not get much attention from the key actors.