Osgoode Faculty Research Series: Professor Margaret Boittin
Work in Progress with Professor Margaret Boittin
“Growing Awareness Amid Growing Vulnerability: Assessing and Mitigating Labor Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers”
Migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are highly vulnerable to labor abuse. Can rights-awareness campaigns help reduce labor abuse by improving knowledge about MDWs’ rights and reduce tolerance of MDWs’ mistreatment? We examine this question through a study that targets two populations: MDWs (those who are vulnerable to labor abuse) and the general population (those who employ MDWs and interact with them in their daily lives). We evaluated the impact of original rights-awareness campaign materials with a randomized-controlled trial in Hong Kong. These information campaigns had little impact on MDWs: this is a group that already has high levels of rights-awareness, and accepts mistreatment as part and parcel of their job. Yet, these same awareness campaigns affect the general population by increasing their knowledge of MDWs’ labor rights and by reducing their tolerance of mistreatment of MDWs. These findings suggest that well-designed and well-targeted rights-awareness campaigns could play a role in improving the work conditions of MDWs by shaping the attitudes of individuals who employ them or witness their mistreatment. However, the limited impact of rights awareness campaigns on the knowledge and attitudes of MDWs themselves underscores the limits of rights-awareness campaigns. Such campaigns are no substitute for the more complex tasks of addressing the economic, legal, and political underpinnings of labor abuse, which are the structurally-rooted factors that cause vulnerability in the first place.