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The Attitudes and Perceptions of Emirati Employers Towards Domestic Workers as Deserving Rights Holders

AlZaabi, Sarah Salem

Prior to 2017, domestic workers were excluded from national labour legislation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In September of 2017, the Emirati government adopted the Domestic Workers Law of 2017. Today, there are approximately 750,000 documented domestic workers employed in the UAE, with an average of three domestic workers employed in each Emirati household. This study examines the socio-cultural and legal factors that influence the attitudes and perceptions of Emirati employers towards domestic workers as deserving rights holders. Specifically, it explores the dependency on domestic workers, the value attributed to their work, the extent to which the Domestic Workers Law of 2017 is being implemented in households, and the efficacy of the translation of the law and ‘rights-based’ language in the Emirati society. Based on interviews with Emirati employers, government officers, and employers at recruiting agencies, this thesis argues that most Emirati employers, do not view domestic workers as rights holders. The key findings reveal that: (1) there is a lack of recognition of domestic work as ‘real work’, (2) there is a lack of awareness of the Domestic Workers Law of 2017, (3) most employers hold their moral convictions at a higher ground than the law, and (4) ‘rights-based’ language is a modern phenomenon that does not yet resonate with Emirati society. Furthermore, this thesis proceeds to suggest both bottom-up and top- down recommendations to improve social awareness of domestic workers’ rights and consequently employers’ translation and implementation of the Domestic Workers Law of 2017 into their households.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Nettelfield, Lara J.
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 24, 2020