The data may come as a surprise: The Middle East is the region with the highest percentage of female domestic workers, and almost all of them are migrants. In the Gulf and Levant, the International Labor Organization estimates there are 1.6 million workers; the International Trade Union Confederation estimate is nearly twice as high (2.5 million).
The monitoring site Migrant Rights contextualizes these huge numbers. Ninety percent of Kuwaiti citizens employs a foreign domestic worker; 36.6 percent of the female workforce is employed in private homes in Bahrain; 99.6 percent of economic immigrants in Saudi Arabia are domestic workers.
The other side of the coin is these workers’ total absence of rights: They work on average 64 hours a week and earn between 20 percent and 30 percent less than the national minimum wage ($147 a month in Kuwait and $100 in Saudi Arabia).