It's not uncommon for women from developing countries to migrate to richer nations looking for jobs and better living conditions. They often find jobs as domestic workers, but all too often, these women experience abuse, illness, mental health problems and limited access to medical care once they arrive at their new homes.
Their experiences are the subject of a new study from Duke University, published last week in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. Researchers at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore and the Duke Global Health Institute used more than two decades of scientific studies to create an analysis of the lives of female migrant domestic workers.
Researchers were led by professor of community and family medicine Truls Ostbye and Dr. Rahul Malhotra, a physician and researcher specializing in community medicine and public health.
They discovered stories of verbal, physical and sexual abuse, ranging from insults to slapping a woman or burning her hair, with minimal or no access to medical care. There were cases of workers being forced to work 19 hours a day with no days off. Poor living conditions, like sleeping in utility rooms or lack of meals, are common, and some studies indicated that more than half of the women receive delayed, irregular or non-payment of wages.
The study notes that some Asian countries, where many workers migrate to, have begun instituting minimum wages and other labor laws.
"It's promising to see that some governments are paying attention to this vulnerable population," Malhotra said. "But we need to do more."