Health issues of female foreign domestic workers: a systematic review of the scientific and gray literature.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review;Systematic Review)

BACKGROUND: Although the number of female foreign domestic workers (FDWs) is increasing worldwide, little is known about their health issues. OBJECTIVE: To systematically review the literature on health issues of female FDWs to ascertain the problems studied, identify limitations, and suggest future research and policy implications. METHODS: A systematic database (PubMed, EBSCO Host, and Google Scholar) and bibliographic search identified the English-language scientific and gray literature published during 1990-2012 addressing health issues of female FDWs living with the family of the employer, using qualitative and/or quantitative research methods. Studies in which female FDWs constituted less than half of the participants were excluded. RESULTS: The health issues studied and identified were adverse work conditions and associated health problems (such as physical, verbal, and sexual abuse at the workplace, caregiving tasks associated with musculoskeletal strain, and chemical exposure associated with respiratory difficulty), mental health (psychotic, neurotic, and mood disorders), infectious diseases (most of the studies were on intestinal parasitic infections), and health knowledge/attitudes/practices (most of the studies were in context of sexual and reproductive health). Most of the studies were medical record reviews or questionnaire-based surveys utilizing convenience sampling or qualitative interviews/focus group discussions. CONCLUSION: Female FDWs face numerous health problems. Studies on representative, possibly longitudinal, samples of female FDWs focusing on specific health conditions are needed to better understand the epidemiology of such conditions. Concerted efforts through the governments of both labor-sending and host countries are required to improve the health, work conditions, and safety of this vulnerable group of women.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Malhotra, R; Arambepola, C; Tarun, S; de Silva, V; Kishore, J; Østbye, T

Published Date

  • October 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 261 - 277

PubMed ID

  • 24588033

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1077-3525

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1179/2049396713Y.0000000041


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England