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New research reveals the huge physical and mental health toll suffered by migrant women from poorer Asian countries like Sri Lanka who go to the Gulf countries to work as cleaners and maids.

The health toll on female migrant workers in gulf countries

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Those interviewed said their employers had denied them proper food and rest breaks and they were forced to continue working when they were ill. One woman told researchers how her painful burns were ignored and she was given inadequate clothing for extreme cold weather. Another said that when she was hit by a car, they applied cream to her injuries rather than provide proper treatment. The women interviewed by researchers most often reported injuries from heavy lifting and carrying, as well as respiratory difficulties and eye damage from the use of chemical cleaning agents.

Sixty domestic workers from Sri Lanka were interviewed before or after they had worked abroad with nearly all of them going to Gulf area countries. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the two largest receiving countries for female domestic help from Sri Lanka. Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of the 40 returning women said they were not permitted to have time off when they were sick. Many also reported symptoms of mental illness, such as depression and insomnia, with the study suggesting this could be due to their living conditions abroad and the fact they missed their families. The research concludes that the women knowingly sacrifice their own health in order to send money to their families back home.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)