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South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team

ILO/SEAPAT's OnLine Gender Learning & Information Module


Unit 2: Gender issues in the world of work

Emerging gender issues in the Asia Pacific region

Women in migration

Good practice example: Organizing migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, migrant women domestic workers have made great strides in organizing themselves. The Asian Domestic Workers’ Union (ADWU) was formed at the end of 1988, and seven domestic workers succeeded in registering the union officially in May 1989. Today, the organization has over 1,700 members, who are mostly from Thailand and the Philippines, but also from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

A vital aspect of ADWU’s work is assistance with grievance cases, of which some 400 have been handled thus far with largely positive results. These involved:

The union also offers telephone counselling for domestic workers experiencing difficulties on the job¾ an important service because members are isolated when working alone in individual households.

The organization is run by members who devote one free day a week to the union. In addition to helping with grievance cases, they offer general assistance; but this is difficult when they have so little time free to commit to the union. Most of the work, including coordination and administrative work, is handled by the union’s part-time organizer. The ADWU Executive Committee has 12 members, who meet at least once a month.

The ADWU rents office space which members are free to use when they need a place to rest on their weekly day off. Members try to promote diverse Asian cultural traditions and understanding among Hong Kong’s women domestic workers.

[Source: Martens and Mitter, eds. Women in trade unions: organizing the unorganized, ILO, 1994, pp. 51-52, and International Union of Food and Allied Workers’ Association, IUF News Bulletin, No. 1-2, 1993, in Lin Lim, More and Better Jobs for Women: an action guide, ILO, 1996]

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For further information, please contact the South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary
Advisory Team (SEAPAT) at Tel: +63.2.815.2354 or Fax: +63.2.812.6143
E-mail: seapat@ilo.org

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This page was revised  by SF. It was approved by WRB. It was last updated on 2 November 1998.