If we look back in the history of the Lebanese families, we can see that they have been hiring domestic migrant workers to help them or maybe work instead of them at home. Responsibilities of MDWs are many and diverse, such that cleaning, cooking, nurturing children and elderly people. Over the years, hiring these MDWs become like exploitation, there are no good working conditions, a lot of gender inequalities, and sometimes slavery occurs. Many questions could be asked concerning this topic.
If we think a little bit why these migrant workers are finding jobs in Lebanon, can’t we see that they can be coming from poor countries? Can’t we see that maybe they are not living well in their countries? Shouldn’t we think about them and about their poor families in Africa and Asia for example? Shouldn’t we consider that these MDWs work in houses in order to get money and send them back to their families? Etc. A lot of questions arise here, and because of that, I choose to write about this topic. To begin with, the article that Siba Harb(2014) wrote about MDWs is good to discuss and argue and also to defend the rights of MDWs. Harb gives two arguments A and B to defend her point of view.
Argument A is about avoiding the employment of MDWs as long as they are unjustly treated. She explains her argument by saying that even if an individual improved the conditions with MDWs, but we can’t ignore that these MDWs come from countries where the staffing or working conditions are severe and we have no control over them(“Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon: An unjust system, how should individuals act?”). Moreover, in argument B, Harb(2014) argues that these MDWs leave their countries to work in Lebanon or in other countries because their original countries suffer from poverty, famine, shortage in food and inability to work and support their families. So, they come to Lebanon, work and send the money they earn back to their families(“Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon: An unjust system, how should individuals act?”). If we think a little bit about them, we will have compassion and pity, and we will ask for better employment conditions to protect MDWs from exploitation. In addition, Harb argues that in order to improve the working conditions, we have to choose argument B. For instance, any MDW has the right of getting a good wage.
If the minimum wage increases, the MDW’s wage should increase. So, rich people having high income should pay high wages. And here we can say that it’s related to ethics, it’s an ethical decision to give MDWs fair and good wages. I think, there is a consequentialist position of justice, where the right action results in its achievement. Also, utilitarianism is found here, when we think of providing good working conditions and fair wages to the MDWs because utilitarianism’s principle is “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people”, it means maximizing the collective happiness. So, happiness is the basis of our moral system. As Bentham said, pain and pleasure govern us, happiness is the conclusion we can reach. He means that we should maximize the collective happiness and relate it to our subject, when our government provides MDWs with good working conditions, rights, and good living standards, the MDWs will live justly and happy, also they will work more and with passion because they know that they are protected and no one can treat them badly.
As you can see, I am defending argument B, because I feel it’s more affecting me, representing me, and it is morally right. Even though MDWs come from poor countries, they work as slaves in other countries as in Lebanon. This slavery and bad treatment should be avoided. MDWs are humans like us, have rights and duties, have to work properly in good working conditions without exploitation and severe treatment. However, MDWs have consent to work in these conditions in Lebanon, but not in severe conditions, they have the knowledge of what they are affirming and they are free to accept or not to work in these conditions, but most of them accept because they need money to secure their families. Based on a true story, if we take an Ethiopian MDW in Lebanon and we ask her(the majority of MDW in Lebanon are women) how much you earn as wage per month, she tells you $150 to $200 maximum, you will be shocked and you wonder why her wage is too low, through this wage she can’t even buy some stuff for her own needs. Despite having many MDWs working in houses where the homeowners are rich and have enough money to live a wonderful life, so that they have the ability to provide the MDWs with a good wage, but when we know that MDWs’ wage is approximately $200 in these rich houses, then we wonder if the homeowners are stingy or the MDW is working by force in this house under severe working conditions.
The government should move on and apply the rules and regulations to protect the rights of MDWs for living well. These rights include the freedom of movement, security, good working conditions, good and fair wages, good living standards etc. Many NGO in Lebanon protect MDWs but it’s not enough, the government should protect them as well against violence and exploitation at homeowners. Moreover, if people have ethical and moral considerations MDWs will live very well in Lebanon. As I already said before, consequentialism and utilitarianism are important here in order to achieve the happiness for the greatest number of people including MDWs. Also, Bentham’s egalitarianism should spread between people, so that everyone is equal in happiness and also we should be equal as people in everything without distinction in color, race, and religion. Kant supports the formulation of humanity where we should treat people as an end, not as mere means. He supports the idea of universal human rights, and he said that he is against treating people as means which means as instruments when fulfilling someone’s request.
So, MDWs should be treated as we are treated, they have rights like us, and they should be respected. I would say that we all are people, and we should respect each other. No matter what the MDW’s race and color are, people are God’s creation and all are equal. I hope that the government will apply the rules and regulations to protect the MDWs in Lebanon, the global exploitation of MDWs should be avoided, because workers are workers, not “slaves”. In the end, I want to conclude by a statement said by a migrant worker in Lebanon called Kumari who is suffering, he said: “What did we do? Did we steal? Did we kill someone?”(Human rights watch).