Domestic workers, also known as house maids or handmaids, are a predominately female workforce that traditionally provides labor in upper-class households. With the increase of dual income families and the global expansion of the middle class, the demand for domestic workers increased, which facilitated the practice of importing lower-cost foreign domestic workers (FDWs) from developing areas. Hong Kong has the highest concentration of FDWs when compared to other metropolitan areas, such as Taiwan, Singapore, or New York. Since the trade began in the 1970s, qualitative research and journalistic investigations have reported that FDWs frequently encounter exploitation, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; being underpaid and overworked; and racial discrimination. With sparse quantitative research identifying risk factors that predict psychological well-being, this study hypothesized two models: (a) racial and ethnic microaggressions, job satisfaction, and family concern predict psychological distress and (b) resilience mediates the association in the first model. We surveyed 478 female FDWs in Hong Kong, and the results suggested that racial and ethnic microaggressions, job satisfaction, and family concerns were significant predictors of psychological distress, supporting the first hypothesis. The women demonstrated very high levels of psychological resilience; however, due to a ceiling effect in the measure of resilience, the data collected on resilience were unrelated to job satisfaction and family concerns. Thus, the second model was not supported, apparently due to a problem in the measurement of the construct of resilience in this sample of FWDs. Overall, FDWs’ working conditions and their level of resilience to those conditions did significantly influence their levels of psychological distress. These findings serve as pilot data for future quantitative research that investigates female FDWs’ employment experience.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





domestic workers, discrimination, exploitation, job satisfaction