Chapter

The Lie Which Is Not One: Biopolitics in the Migrant Domestic Workers’ Market in Turkey

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Abstract

In the 20 years since its emergence, the migrant domestic workers’ market in Turkey has become an intrinsic element of the urban (upper) middle-class experience. While the domestic work sector was formerly a realm that attracted Turkish women of the urban poor, it has become a true labour market with the arrival of migrants originating from post-socialist countries in proximity to Turkey. From the outset, a defining aspect of the migrant domestic workers’ market has been the high turnover of workers. Until the recent introduction of a government regularisation scheme, migrant domestics were typically employed through oral contracts based on mutual agreement regarding the workers’ wages, work schedules and workload. In practice, this has meant that neither side was legally bound to comply with any rules or regulations. From the point of view of employers, utilising migrants was thus very advantageous: because there was a constant in-flow of new migrants, there would always be somebody out there who was more hard-working, less demanding, less annoying and so on, if they were dissatisfied with their current employee. Since the power ultimately rested with them, employers were not compelled to consider the working rights of their employees and so the practice of readily hiring and firing migrant domestics became a defining aspect of the market.

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