Traffickers, Brokers, Employment Agents, and Social Networks: The Regulation of Intermediaries in the Migration of Ethiopian Domestic Workers to the Middle East


  • The author wishes to acknowledge the feedback and suggestions of Phillipe Fargues, Hilary Charlesworth, Ellen Percy Kraly and two anonymous reviewers. All remaining errors are my responsibility.


This paper examines the regulatory regimes surrounding the operations of intermediaries who facilitate Ethiopian women's employment as contract domestic workers in the Middle East. Drawing on empirical research in Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Kuwait, the paper focuses on the commonly observed problem of “regulatory failure,” as states and international agencies frequently fail to achieve their objectives in the regulation of intermediaries of migration. This paper argues that a decentered approach to regulation can provide a productive diagnosis of regulatory failure, one that recognizes how power may be dispersed between social actors and (non-unitary) state actors and how it is differentially exercised across multiple regulatory regimes within this migration trajectory.