This report was published in The Times of India on 26/06/2022
Pre-departure and skill training programmes could go a long way in protecting prospective migrants who want to migrate to foreign countries for work, especially domestic workers, said a study by Kochi-based thinktank the Centre For Socio-economic and Environmental Studies (CSES).
The study titled ‘Migration of Women Domestic Workers from Kerala to the Gulf: Challenges and Policy Options’ is based on secondary data, literature, and interviews with domestic workers who migrated from Kerala to the Gulf. “In the wake of countries opening after Covid-19 and even several students moving for higher studies, we need to address this knowledge gap,” said Rakkee Thimothy, author of the study.
“The state tries to control women domestic workers’ movement, either banning their migration or imposing restrictions on their movements. However, it is proven that such a paternalistic and protective attitude does not help women but increases their vulnerabilities at different stages of migration cycle. Therefore, there needs to be greater emphasis on making migration governance more gender-friendly,” she said.
“We should learn from Philippines and Sri Lanka, which provide comprehensive training to equip women domestic workers to meet challenges in foreign countries and seek better wages. Norka could play a crucial role in training for Kerala women who want to work as domestic workers abroad,” she said.
Th study found that women would like to change employers and not be tied up in an exploitative environment. “There are many women accompanying families for domestic work, elderly care, child care and even vacation support. They go on a visit visa and are dependent on the employer to take care of their stay. They stay on not knowing if it’s legal or not and their papers and passport are with the employer,” Rakkee said.
Once in the Gulf, they may work in multiple houses and earn extra money depending on their relationship with the employer. In the case of those going on free visa, they stay independently, as the visa is arranged directly by the worker. Most workers who migrated on free visas had prior experience working in the Gulf. Once they gain confidence, those willing to take risks migrate on free visa and make their stay arrangements.
One major lacuna of the migration governance in India is the lack of emphasis placed on the return and reintegration of migrant workers. India should consider the case of SL and Philippines, where migrant workers and their families are given orientation as part of the migrant preparation course.