Migrant autonomies in Singapore’s Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) Industry

  • Ng Lynn University of Victoria


My paper uses the case of Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) in Singapore to argue for a reconceptualization of the mobile commons in which migrant actors are the protagonists of oppressive labor regimes. Based on a scoping review of scholarly research and popular media sources, I pose two key questions about the mobile commons and acts of resistance by MDWs in Singapore and proceed to answer them with my research findings. I suggest that the personal agency embodied in the acts and strategies of MDWs must be understood within an asymmetrical live-in employment relationship that does not automatically allow for digital participation. I am interested in the question: What does the ‘mobile commons’ for MDWs in Singapore look like? Importantly, recurrent studies show that MDW acts and strategies to cope with oppressive labor regimes are deeply but not exclusively conditioned by the structural factors determined by governments, recruitment agencies, and individual domestic employers. Hence my follow-up question: How do the actions and strategies of MDWs in Singapore complicate and nuance the mobile commons? The state’s live-in requirement is the most significant structural factor conditioning the mobility of MDWs, by implication their forms of political practice. 


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Author Biography

Ng Lynn, University of Victoria

Lynn Ng Yu Ling is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Victoria. Her doctoral research compares and contrasts the lived experiences of eldercare in Singapore and Taiwan, with a focus on foreign domestic workers (FDWs). Her theoretical interests are in feminist political economy (FPE) and racial capitalism.