Sociologist Arlie Hochschild describes the migration of domestic labor from poorer countries to wealthier countries as a global heart transplant. Women workers from a few pockets of the global South prop up caring services in the rest of the world as full-time employment, coupled with increasing levels of privatization, turns care work into a tradeable commodity. This is evident in hospitals, nurseries and care homes the world over, but takes on a particularly strange dynamic when migrant domestic workers - many of whom have their own children - are raising the children of other nations, so that the women of those communities may be liberated from one of the burdens of womanhood. Migrant domestic workers resist definition. Their work is unique in that it is a complex yet direct mock-up of global society: It is symbolic of binary power relations between genders, races, nations and classes.
A quarter of a million migrant domestic workers serve the ‘middle classes’ of Lebanon, whose population is just 4 million. They have no recourse to domestic labor laws and no right to remain in the country in the event of terminated employment. Instead, as in many other countries across the region, migrant workers enter Lebanon through a "kafala" system of sponsorship, in which the state leaves it to the host household to manage the visa and legal status of their sponsored domestic worker and grants a residence permit on the strict condition that the worker remains in the custody of the household throughout the term of her employment.