Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2010


Migrant domestic workers, Globalization, Undocumented migrants, Irregular migration, Egyptian labor law, International refugee law in Egypt, Migrant Workers' Convention, Four Freedoms Agreement, ILO Migrant Workers' Convention


Comparative and Foreign Law | International Law


This Essay links a particular legal case study with a broader set of questions about the "family" in a global political and economic context. Part I clarifies the analytic links between the household, the market, and globalization. By studying Egypt, the Essay focuses on one part of this global sociolegal continuum and draws out the special significance of transnational background rules and conditions for the "developmental state." Part II presents the legal framework affecting labor conditions of sub-Saharan African asylum-seekers who are migrant domestic workers in Egypt, and particularly the legal framework that affects their ability to bargain in securing livelihood strategies. Domestic and international law fail to provide adequate assistance and support for these efforts, but they inevitably construct the environments for them: "foreground" rules of employment and contract law (but not family law) affect the bargaining environment for migrant domestic workers; "background" rules, most importantly those related to sovereignty and immigration, also crucially influence the bargaining environment. Part III returns to the conceptual landscape, connecting this study with current quandaries in global governance studies and critical understandings of the "economic family."

Publication Citation

Published in: American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Fall 2010).