Migrant Domestic Workers: Good Workers, Poor Slaves, New Connections

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In public debates support for migrants' rights has generally taken two approaches: the migrant as “Good Worker” or the migrant as “Poor Slave”. This paper will constructively critique these approaches by considering the case of a U.K. campaign demanding a specific visa for migrant domestic workers and how they drew on the Good Worker/Poor Slave. It describes the campaign's initial focus on domestic workers as workers and how this required demanding special rights as migrant workers on the basis of the specific conditions in the private household, at the same time as calling for paid domestic work to be recognised as a job like any other. The campaign was initially successful, but the right to change employer was withdrawn in 2012. The revived campaign was this time situated within the debates about “modern slavery” and the paper will consider some of the ways in which the U.K. government has responded to this. It will argue for the importance of not reifying the difference between “migrant” and “citizen”, thereby recognising connections between national and non-national workers, and also between commodified and non-commodified reproductive labour. Given the low level of public debate at the moment this may not be possible for campaigners but academics must continue in attempts to raise the level of public debate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-652
JournalSocial Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2015


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