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Human rights and migrant domestic work: A comparative analysis of the socio-legal status of Filipina migrant domestic workers in Canada and Hong Kong




Maria Deanna P. Santos


On a general level, this research project concerns ways in which the domestic and international laws relating to the situation of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are shaped by broader socio-political and economic factors. More specifically, this dissertation examines the human rights situation of Filipina MDWs who participate in Canada's Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). It attempts to meet these objectives, in part, by undertaking a limited comparison of the situation of these Filipina MDWs and the Filipina MDWs in Hong Kong. The comparison is meant to further test and validate the arguments and proposals presented in this dissertation regarding the socio-legal status of Filipina MDWs under Canada's LCP. This was done through an analysis of existing data on Filipina MDWs, and a consideration of the ways in which the relevant laws and policies in these two jurisdictions affect, create and/or perpetrate the status quo in this area of social life. The main explanatory theoretical framework that is deployed is the Third World Approaches to International Law or the TWAIL theory. Among the findings of this research is that the ill-treatment of Filipina MDWs in Canada and Hong Kong is sanctioned by migrant domestic worker policies designed to fill the need for cheaper alternatives to state-sponsored childcare and home support services. The ill-treatment does not necessarily consist solely of physical or psychological abuse, but is also manifested in the systemic exploitation of MDWs from poor, third world countries. This systemic exploitation of MDWs from poor, third world countries such as the Philippines to richer countries of employment, is best explained by a colonial type of extractive relations, the various implications of which are most effectively analyzed using the TWAIL framework. Thus, the most appropriate remedies to ameliorate the current situation are those which take into careful consideration this extractive relationship and which are geared towards ensuring a more equitable international socio-economic and political scenario among countries of origin and countries of employment in particular and throughout the whole world in general.

Number of pages



York University (Canada)

Academic department


Place published


File Attachments

Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work, Home child care providers, and Home support workers, housekeepers and related occupations

Content types

Policy analysis and Statistics on work and life conditions

Target groups


Geographical focuses

Philippines and National relevance

Spheres of activity