Irregular Workers in Egypt: Migrant and Refugee Domestic Workers

Ray Jureidini

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Unlike most other countries in the Arab region, Egypt does not have a regular or significant intake of migrant workers who are contracted to perform the domestic chores of Egyptian households. The legal history of domestic work in Egypt is best characterised as one that denies the validity of paid domestic work as an employment relationship and so it is explicitly excluded from local labour law. While most domestic workers are Egyptian, obtaining work visas for migrant domestic workers is difficult, if not impossible. However, many irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are employed as domestic workers. This study looks briefly at the history of legislation and regulation of domestic work in Egypt, including the government’s position in relation to its ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. There follows a brief and selective summary of the results of a survey of Egyptian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Nigerian and Sudanese, as well as Filipina and Indonesian, domestic workers in Cairo. As found in other Arab countries, there are reports of significant rights violations, including racial and sexual abuse.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Jureidini, Ray. Irregular Workers in Egypt: Migrant and Refugee Domestic Workers. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2009, vol.11, no.1, pp. 75-90, UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol11/issue1/art4

About the authors:

Ray Jureidini, an Australian sociologist specialising in industrial and economic sociology, is Director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt. His research is focused on migration, xenophobia and human trafficking, with specific reference to female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, Egypt and the Middle East generally. He is currently involved in a number of research projects including: child domestic workers in Egypt, remittance investment of Egyptian migrants abroad, livelihoods of Sudanese refugees in Cairo and trajectories of Somali refugees in the region. E-mail: rayj(at)aucegypt.edu

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