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Employing Migrant Domestic Workers in Urban Yemen: A New Form of Social Distinction

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This article argues that employing migrant domestic workers has become a new form of social distinction in urban Yemen. The rapid social, economic and political changes of the past forty years have altered Yemen's system of social stratification. Formerly, one's racial descent and economic background determined the work they performed. Manual and service professions had a very low status and were only performed by the lowest social status groups. Nowadays other forms of social distinction have emerged. Although the economic situation in Yemen has deteriorated since the 1990s, the demand for paid domestic labour has increased. Yemeni women are reluctant to take up paid work as domestics, and middle and upper middle class families in urban areas employ migrant and refugee women, in particular from the Horn of Africa.

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Affiliations: 1: International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam;, Email:


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