Faculty & Research

More Than 2 Million Domestic Workers in the Middle East

Who hires foreign domestic workers? Evidence from Lebanon

Today, domestic workers make up a large portion of the workforce, and according to a research conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), at least 2.1 million people in the Middle East- mainly women - are employed as domestic workers.

Domestic work is one of the oldest and most important occupations for millions of women around the world. In the past two decades demand for care work has been on the rise everywhere. The massive incorporation of women in the labor force, the ageing of societies, the intensification of work and the frequent lack or inadequacy of policy measures to facilitate the reconciliation of family life and work underpin this trend (ILO, 2013).

A recent study by two Adnan Kassar School of Business economists, Dr. Ali Fakih and Dr. Walid Marrouch provides new evidence on the determinants of foreign domestic workers’ employment using a socio-economic dataset from Lebanon. The study entitled “Who hires foreign domestic workers? Evidence from Lebanon”, is a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Developing Areas.

Foreign domestic workers’ activities provide important market and non-market services in a large number of middle-income countries as these activities have an impact on the labor force participation and time allocation decisions of household members.

“Controlling for household, household head, dwelling and regional characteristics, contrary to popular beliefs we find that the size of the household and the presence of elderly persons are not important determinants of the hiring decision of foreign domestic workers, while the probability of hiring a domestic worker is significantly higher for households with children and disabled persons,” explains Dr. Marrouch.

“Interestingly, we find that the number of rooms in the residence rather than its total surface area or type to be the only relevant dwelling characteristic,” adds Dr. Fakih.

Fakih and Marrouch said these findings offer insights about the demand for foreign domestic workers that may be useful to policy makers in developing nations. Currently, the two economists are engaged in a consultancy assignment for the ILO in order to propose alternatives to the current Kafala (sponsorship) system for foreign domestic workers in Lebanon.

A summary highlighting the main findings was also reported in Arabic in the local media; please click on the link for the story.

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