Inquiring into the lives of precarious workers require new ways of thinking and re-thinking about their power, agency, and resistance. Singular axis and dualistic understanding of their power, agency, and resistance hinder our theoretical and empirical understanding of their struggles. A review of the mandatory live-in policy for migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong illustrates a spectrum of labour relations as well as governmentality that seeks to control, regulate, and maintain female MDWs within the reversed and limited boundaries of public and private spaces. In this study, I specifically explored into the ambiguousness of the term suitable accommodation which is embedded in the context of employing MDWs in Hong Kong in terms of its spatial, power, and agency dimensions. Using a spatial emphasis, I looked into female MDW’s marginal physical and abstract accommodations in Hong Kong’s public and private spaces. I discussed how such policy, guised as a protective entitlement, functions otherwise as an oppressive tool that increases female MDW vulnerability resulting in indefinite working hours, lack of personal privacy, diet restriction, sexual discipline, among others. Employing a power and agency emphasis, I examined various motivations and aspirations of female MDWs in accommodating, negotiating, or resisting such spaces in the public and private realm. For most female MDWs, their gainful employment in Hong Kong allows them to pursue their motivations and aspirations for a good life not only for themselves but also for their loved ones back home. Female MDWs also strategically use their spaces to campaign and mobilize for better working conditions. In conclusion, against structuralist forces that subjugate and marginalize their labour, my interviews with female MDWs in Hong Kong invoke that they demonstrate multiple layers and forms of power, agency and resistance through individual rightsclaiming strategies and collective resistance for survival and solidarity.

female migrant domestic workers, domestic labour, migration, agency, power, resistance, space, suitable accommodation, decent work, governmentality, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong
Siegmann, Karin Astrid
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Dela Rosa, Yodhim Gudel Gepty. (2019, December 20). Negotiating suitable accommodation: Spatial needs and strategies of female migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from