Domestic Workers in the Arabian Gulf: Precarity, reality, and resistance

  • Claude Beaupre University of Victoria


This paper’s aim is to further the literature on the global Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) social movement aimed at denouncing their exploitation and asserting the value of their labour as an irreplaceable contribution to the functioning of society. The Gulf region has been largely absent in this literature. This article argues that this exclusion from the migrant-led domestic care mobilisation in no way implies that MDWs have made no efforts in Gulf states to improve their labour conditions, but that the context in which they are employed make it such that they are unable to organise together due to the stern policing and isolating norms that prevail. Instead, their resistance is predominantly situated within the confines they are subjected to, resulting in what has been called “everyday resistance.” Drawing on relevant secondary literature on the systemic precarity experienced by domestic workers in the Gulf region and feminist scholarship on MDWs micro-level, everyday assertions, this article argues that the confined living situations under the Kafala labour system set the terms and conditions for how MDWs political resistance can be - and is - expressed.1 By focusing on a global social movement premised on outward expressions of protest, the existing literature’s omission of micro-level acts of resistance results in MDWs in certain contexts being overlooked as agents of social activism in their own right. This article contextualizes the strategies of resistance made by MDWs in the Gulf region by first examining the systemic and gendered control under the Kafala system. It then argues that the inclusion of everyday resistance allows for a more holistic vision of MDWs assertions of labour rights consciousness and ultimately of justice, one that includes a defensive protection of personal dignity and notions of selfhood.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Claude Beaupre, University of Victoria

Claude Beaupré is a joint Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Victoria's Political Science Department, and the University of Strasbourg's Center of International and European Studies (Centre d’Etudes internationales et Européennes). She holds an MA in Public and International Affairs from York University, an MA in History of International Relations from Science Po Strasbourg, as well as an (Honours) BA in International Studies from the York University. Her current research focuses on discourses surrounding transnational human migration and media depiction.