The exploitation of female migrant domestic workers in the UK 

Many migrant women in the UK working in domestic and home-care sectors face exploitation, including non-payment, long hours, racial abuse, and even rape. The global care chain sees workers from poorer countries supporting wealthier households. Limited state funding for domestic care in wealthier countries exacerbates the issue, with many migrant workers enduring poor conditions to support their families financially.

Many migrant workers who do domestic work in the U.K. are exploited by their employers. 

Approximately 80% of people engaged in employment in the domestic sphere are women. increasing numbers of workers in the home-care sector are also migrants. 

Abuses against such workers include everything from not being paid to overt physical violence including rape. 

This is according to a recent study: Abuses against Female Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK: An intersectional Approach by Joyce Jiang (2023). 

This study draws on two research projects: one an ethnographic study carried out between 2009 and 2013 and another a participatory video-study carried out between 2018 and 2020. 

The study takes an intersectional approach. It focuses on the intersection between these workers being both female and migrant workers.

This blog post is a summary of this research.

The global care chain

Domestic work in more wealthy households in rich countries is increasingly done by migrant workers from poorer, developing countries. We thus have a global care chain. 

This is a result of the lack of state funding for domestic care in wealthier countries. It potentially creates a divide between elite women in rich countries and poor women from poor countries. 

31% of  domestic workers in the UK are migrants. They are mainly from Asia and Africa, from countries such as The Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Most migrant domestic workers in the UK are live-in workers. 

They get into the UK with a domestic overseas work VISA which lasts for six months. They have to work for a particular employer in their country who will choose to bring them abroad. 

The number of organisations recruiting domestic workers has grown rapidly over the last 20 years…

The exploitation of female migrant domestic workers

A survey of 500 workers found that 70% of them don’t have their own bedroom, in some cases they have to sleep in the corridor. 

Paying below minimum wage and working long hours is the most common form of abuse. Some have reported having to work 90 hours a week and being required to be on-call 24 hours a day. 

More extreme cases of abuse include:

  • not being paid.
  • being locked in the house during the day.
  • racial abuse.
  • Isolation, having passports locked away is common.
  • A wide range of physical, psychological and emotional violence, including rape by male employers. 

Why migrant workers come to the UK

The main reasons why they come to the UK are financial. 

Many cannot cannot afford medical bills, or basic goods for the children. Or they are in debt. 

Some return back to the UK over and over again knowing how bad their working conditions are going to be. This is because they cannot earn enough to meet their needs in their home countries. 

Trades Unions are aware of the exploitation. However migrant workers are hard to reach because they are so isolated, and thus fragmented. 

Signposting/ find out more

This post is a summary of a 2023 episode of Thinking Allowed podcast on Intersections which covers the above study. 

This issue is most relevant to the globalisation and global development module. 

This is a useful report on domestic workers by the ILO.

While this post focuses specifically on domestic workers, the issue is broader. 

Recently the government added health and social care workers to the shortage list. Increasing numbers of migrants are now coming to the UK on these visas. 

According to one recent International Labour Organisation estimate there are 75 million domestic workers in the world.

Is school funding at a record high in 2024?

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, claimed that school funding was at a record high, but an IFS report contradicts this. The government manipulates statistics by focusing on specific age ranges to present a positive image. Cuts have been made in sixth form, Local Education Authorities, and capital spending, highlighting government bias in statistics. This emphasizes the importance of critical analysis in government data.

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan recently claimed that school funding was at a record high. She claimed that schools were being funded at the level of £60 billion a year, the highest per-pupil figure in history. 

However this is not accurate, according to a recent episode of More or Less on Radio 4. 

According to Luke Sibieta, research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS): 

Between 2010 and 2019 spending per pupil fell by about 9% in real terms. Since 2019, the government has increased school funding. Spending per pupil should be back to about where it was in 2010 by 2025, but only just. 

Prior to 2010 (when the Tories came to power) real-terms spending on education per pupil increased year on year. It was true to say that school spending was at ‘record levels’ nearly every year all the way back to 1945. 

The fact that this is now worth mentioning highlights the historically unusual cuts to school funding under Tory government for the last decade.  

graph showing education expenditure in the UK from 1955 to 2022.

The above figures from the IFS refer to spending on all pupils from the age of 3 all the way up to age 19. 

How the government manipulated the official statistics

The government uses spending on pupils aged only 5-16. By selecting these figures the government is able to paint a more positive picture of school funding over the years. Spending on 5-16 year olds shows flat spending during 2010-2015, then a cut to 2019. Then after this an increase. 

The government figures disguise the severe 25% cuts they have made to sixth forms over the last decade. 

The government figures also disguise cuts to Local Education Authorities which used to fund many important services to schools. Such services included SEN spending and running administrative services such as pay-rolls for example. Local Authority education funding for these services have been cut by 50% between 2010 and 2019.  Schools now have to pay for these things themselves out of smaller budgets. 

The government figures also disguise severe cuts to capital spending. Spending on school buildings and repairs was 20% lower in the last three years than it was in the late 200os. 

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is most relevant to the module in research methods.

This brief update is a good example of government bias in the use of statistics. The government deliberately selects a narrow age-range to get a positive spin or bias on the education spending figures. 

However their claims are kept in check by the more objective IFS. Their more complete data with a broader age range (3-19) shows us that spending hasn’t been as much as the Tory’s claim. 

Overall this is a lesson in why you can’t trust official government statistics

Find out More

You might like this report on annual schools spending by the IFS.

Why is the clear up rate for crime in the UK so low…?

Only one in 20 offenders in the UK get charged. This is because of two main reasons: Tory funding cuts leading to declining police numbers and the increasingly complex nature of crime.

Only one in 20 offenders now get charged, according to a recent BBC Panorama documentary: Will my Crime get Solved…? For burglaries, only 4% of home burglars are charged.

And in 39% of crimes police fail altogether to identify a suspect. 

The documentary does the ususual job of combining case studies and interviews with experts who drill down into the statistics. 

The case studies are with three victims who haven’t had their crimes cleared up. In two of the cases the victims have even done their own work identifying the criminals. However the police haven’t pursued prosecutions in either case, despite having clear evidence. 

Why is there such a low clear up rate for crimes in the UK?

It isn’t due to rising crime rates overall. Most crimes have decreased over the last few decades according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales. Despite the low prosecution rates, burglary is falling, for example. 

However, two crimes in particular have increased: cybercrime and sexual related violence, mainly against women. 

Both of these crimes are very difficult to get prosecutions for, which goes some way to explain the very low clear up rates for crime. 

Cyber crime has increased dramatically in recent years, and is very difficult to solve because the perpetrators are often unknown, and quite possibly based abroad in the case of organised cybercrime. 

Sexual violence has seen an increase in reporting but it can be difficult to get prosecutions and victims are unwilling to to pursue the peretators in the courts because of fear of retribution, shame, and the historically low chances of getting a successful prosecution 

A second reason for the low clear up rates for crime is that the police are overstretched and increasingly inexperienced. Tory cuts to police funding saw 20 000 police officers leave the force after 2010. These have now been replaced but with younger and less experienced officers. 

And this now less experienced cohort of officers have to deal with increasingly complex crimes compared to a decade ago. This means more time is being spent on cyber crime, sex crimes, but not only that, more police time is being spent on dealing with global crimes too. 

This means that crimes such as burglary have been pushed to the back of the priority list. The police today are under increased pressure given their numbers and lack of experience. 

Public confidence in the police in the UK is at an all-time low.

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is very relevant to left-realist criminology which argues victims should be put first when it comes to policing strategies. This evidence suggests such an approach is not working and victims are being let down. With such very low clear up rates, public trust in the police is at an all time low, and left-realist approaches rely on the public trusting and working with the police. 

It also shows us how the police are struggling to cope with the changing nature of crime. 

It is also possibly evidence of how neither left nor right realist approaches to tackling crime control are relevant today. Crime is increasingly global and complex and maybe new and innovative crime control measures are required. 


Declining Trust in the Police

Should we control children’s use of mobile phones more?

The Department for Education recently revealed new guidelines on ‘banning’ mobile phones from classrooms across England. 

The D of E points out that by the age of 12, 97% of children have their own mobile phones. These can potentially cause students to get distracted from learning. Worse, they can facilitate harassment, sexual abuse and bullying in and outside of school. 

The guidelines present four models of prohibition which range from an outright ban on school premises, to allowing pupils to carry them as long as they are never used. 

Maybe these guidelines don’t go far enough?

The guidelines are just that, guidelines, they are NOT a social policy!

There is no obligation for schools to implement any of the suggested measures.  

Most schools already have strict policies on the use of mobile phones. 

More than 80% of schools forbid their use or only allow use when specifically permitted by teachers. Less than 1% of pupils use them at will when in school. 

However, despite the rules, students still use them when they shouldn’t be. One third of secondary school students say they’ve seen phones being used secretly in lessons. 

The guidelines don’t address the deeper problem of children’s exposure to social media via their phones more generally. For younger people especially, a constant string of notifications daily can fuel a toxic cycle of addiction. Many pupils will be distracted from homework and revision due to their mobiles.

Similarly these rules don’t address the harms from exposure to the more toxic aspects of social media. This will carry on outside of school, with pupils being exposed to the likes of Andrew Tate. 

Maybe what we need is more stringent societal level rules restricting children’s use of mobile phones more generally. We could, for example, only allow the sale of restricted phones to under 16s (or under 18s) that have very limited functionality. 


This material is relevant to the education module within A-level sociology. It is also relevant to social control, an integral part of the Crime and Deviance module.

Find out more

Details of the guidelines on mobile phones can be found here.

Are British students being ‘pushed out’ by foreign students?

A recent investigation conducted by the Sunday Times found that international students were being offered places at British University with much lower grades than British students. 

However, on reading the article beneath the headline we quickly discover that the international students were being recruited onto one year foundation courses while the British students were being recruited onto regular degree courses. 

There is still a wide held belief that international students are taking places away from British students. It is widely thought that universities are motivated by money. They charge foreign students double or more for the same courses, and this is detrimental to British students. 

However, if we examine the data closer it appears that the opposite may be true!

bar chart comparing the numbers of British, EU and International students at UK universities.

In 2012 the maximum fees per year universities could charge for a course was set at £9000. Today it is still only £9250. 

Fees simply haven’t risen in line with inflation. Everything is more expensive today, especially the wages for lecturers. 

In real terms fees have slumped to only £7000 a year. This isn’t enough to pay for the cost of running universities and courses. 

Today universities lose money for every British student they recruit. 

However, fees for foreign students are not capped, and so universities make a profit on these. These profits subsidise places for British students. International fees make up 10-30% of many universities’ income. Hence capping the numbers of foreign students would probably be detrimental to them. 

British students are not being squeezed out…

If you compare the figures from 2019 with 2023 the numbers of UK students at British universities has increased by just under 20 000, an increase of just under 5%.

Over the same period the number of acceptances of foreign students has increased by 15000, an increase of just under 35%. 

However the above figures do not include students from the EU, who are counted in a different category. There were 30 000 EU students in 2019, but only 10 000 in 2023. 

Thus, if we add together the figures for ‘International’ students and ‘EU’ students we find there are fewer students in 2023 than in 2019. 

The main reason for the decline of EU students is Brexit. EU students used to be treated the same as British students with the same fees, but now they have to pay the international rate. 

Relevance to A-level sociology  

This is relevant to the sociology of education, especially the topic on globalisation and education.

It would seem that if you look at the data in some depth foreign students are effectively subsidising UK students. University fees in the UK have been kept low by the government and don’t cover the costs of education. Hence universities need more foreign students who pay higher fees to cover the costs!


This is a summary of a recent More or Less podcast

Office for Students Annual Review 

81% of young adults are furious, frustrated or angry about house prices

In 1980 50% of young adults aged between 18-34 owned their own homes.

Today only 20% of young adults live in their own homes. (1)

This is because of increasing house prices. In the 1980s the average house price was 4 times the average wage. Today the average house price is eight times the national wage.

It now takes 13 years on average to save for a deposit on a property. Assuming you start at 22, this would mean you’d be 35 before being able to afford a place.

This is a 100% increase in the cost of the most prized possession in British society: one’s house.

House ownership is part of the British dream. The idea is you work hard, save money, and are able to buy your own place. But house ownership is becoming increasingly unreachable for younger people.

This is especially true if you live in London, where the average house price is 30 times the average wage. There is no point someone on the average salary even trying to save for a house in London.

And even if you do live in London, saving for a deposit would be a struggle for most. If you want a social life, or family, and you have to pay rent, that doesn’t leave a lot left over.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This makes me think of Merton’s Strain Theory. A crucial part of the British Dream – house ownership – is now unreachable for most through legitimate means.

So according to Merton’s Strain Theory we’ve probably got a lot of younger adults suffering anomie.

The problem is it’s VERY difficult to gain enough money to buy your own home through illegitimate means. So there’s possibly a lot of people who are responding through ritualism, retreatism or rebellion. In other words, there’s a lot of pent up misery and anger out there.

There is some evidence in this from of surveys on home ownership.

One survey in 2022 found that 66% of Millennials and 59% of Gen Zers saw home ownership as a mark of success. (Conducted in America, sample size 2500). Affordability was the main reason for not owning a home.

Another survey of of 1500 young adults in Britain conducted in 2023 adds further support. This survey found that 81% of young adults were either Furious, frustrated or angry about housing affordability. 44% had either completely given up or thought it unlikely they would ever buy a house.

All of this suggests there is a lot of pent up frustration out there amongst Young People. This can only be made worse by the increasing inequality in house ownership. The top 10-20% of 30 somethings are able to get significant parental support for a deposit. How can this not fuel a sense of resentment? It should do because this is people benefiting from wealth they have not earned.

What is interesting is how the political elite seem oblivious to all of this. Think about how they paid so much attention to the recent cost of living crisis. But this crisis was only a 20% increase and mainly offset by wage increases. In contrast, here we have an ENTIRE two generations facing a 100% increasing in house ownership. And what have to Tories done about this: absolutely nothing.


(1) The Week, 20th January 2024, page 12.

Is banning prayers in school discriminatory?

Michaela Secondary School and Sixth Form lead by Katherine Birbalsingh is openly secular. It is also the BEST school in the country. It has ranked number 1 for Progress 8 in the last two years. It gets better GCSE results than many private schools despite having 25% of its pupils on Free School Meals.

For eight years they had no prayers in school, and provided no prayer rooms for pupils, making this clear to the students and parents before they chose the school.

Now, one of the school’s pupils is suing the school on the basis that the prayer ban is discriminatory. Birbalsingh is fighting back against this and wants to maintain the prayer ban for the benefit of everyone else.

Historical Context to the prayer ban

When they opened in 2014 30% of the school population was Muslim, which the school has since grown to 50%.

Birbalsingh points out that it is not possible for the school to have prayer rooms and maintain its strict ethos of silent corridors and staff attending ‘family lunches’ where children eat together in assigned groups of six.

This is because they don’t have enough space to provide prayer rooms for 350 Muslim pupils, so would have to open up many of the classrooms instead, which would mean removing bags and books and other pupils carrying all of their stuff with them. It would have knock on effects, probably meaning corridors would not be silent.

Because of the lack of prayer rooms pupils were allowed to pray outside, but somehow word spread outside the school that were no prayer rooms and an online petition was created to encourage the school to get indoor prayer rooms (which wouldn’t work).

The petition escalated into threats against school staff from outside.

During Ramadan recently this started to have a knock on effect with some of the Muslim pupils, with some of them applying peer pressure on less devout pupils who didn’t fast during Ramadan to do so.

As a result of all of the above Birbalsingh banned all prayer because it had become a divisive issue. The school had previously been a happy place where everyone got along regardless of religion or ethnicity.

The prayer ban is entirely in line with pupils of most faiths making sacrifices so all students can get along. Some Christian parents, for example, don’t like Sunday revision sessions but they put up with it for the benefit of the collective.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is clearly relevant to both the sociology of religion and education.

You use this to criticise postmodern ideas about education. It seems that a good old functionalist ethos of schooling where the community comes first works to get the best results!

The school has succeeded so far because all individuals make certain sacrifices for the benefit of the whole.

Now we have one pupil hell-bent on changing everything so they can get their way.

It seems to me that there is no case of discrimination here, just one upset individual who needs to learn to sacrifice like everyone else. If they get their way, everyone else is going to suffer.

Of course if you think that people CHOOSE their religion, and their way of practicing it, then it’s impossible for this to be discriminatory.

This is a very interesting case of individual rights versus the collective good. It’s a good example of how individualism has gone too far in our postmodern age, maybe…?

Kweku Adoboli… From Rogue Trader to Critique of the Banking System…

Kweku Adoboli was convicted in 2013 of the largest fraud in British history. While working for UBC bank as a trader he disguised the amount of risk his trades were exposing the bank to by creating fake hedging trades which could have minimised losses.

He ended up losing the bank £2.3 billion, plead guilty to fraud and was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2013.

He served 3.5 years, and then spent another couple of years unsuccessfully trying to avoid being deported to Ghana. This is despite the fact that he’d spent most of his life living in the U.K where his family and friends were also based. However he never bothered getting U.K. Citizenship and this meant it was easy for the U.K. government to deport him once he’d become a convicted criminal. He was eventually deported in 2018.

This TED video is worth a watch where he outlines his side of the story…

Was he a scapegoat…?

While Adoboli took responsibility for the the losses he incurred, he says this was because of his Quaker upbringing: you own responsibility as part of your duty to the community.

The problem is that UBS didn’t have the same sense of duty to him.

Adoboli says the bank was fine with his risk-taking when he was making the bank money, and much of the time sorting out other people’s problems. He says all that he was doing was working within the logic of the banking system to make them more money.

But as soon as this problem occurred they blamed him for the bank’s losses and put it all on him.

In reality, it was the culture of banking that was the problem. Adoboli’s job it turns out was sit between wealthy clients and the bank and make ETF trades to help clients avoid tax. That was his job, to basically shaft society for the sake of the rich, and he had to take risks to do that.

He now thinks banks encourage people to lose site of morality and just focus on making money without thinking about the consequences.

He maybe has a point, that it was the banking system that encouraged him to do what he did, even if he took responsibility.

Britain is a backward country…

Following his deportation he is also very critical of Britain. He sees it as a country in decline that is looking backwards. It is scared, closing its borders, and we see that today in the anti-immigration stance taken by the country.

Britain is also a country of blocked opportunities for young black men, which becomes obvious when you look at the ethnicity and crime statistics.

In contrast he thinks African countries such as Ghana have a chance to develop more inclusive democracies which empower young people.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is just an update on the biggest white collar fraudster in British history. It’s interesting to hear his side of the story, rather than just the narrow media agenda.

To find out more you can see Kweku’s own website.

The North South Divide in Education

There is a clear north-south divide in education: children who live in the north of England are more likely to live in poverty and be absent from school, both of which are correlated with lower educational achievement.

This is according to a recent report published in 2021 called ‘Child of the North‘.

Child of the North: Key Findings

  • 27% of children who live in the North of England live in poverty compared to only 20% in the rest of England.
  • Only 14% received four or more pieces of offline schoolwork during lockdown compared to 20% in the rest of England.
  • Sure Start funding was cut harder in the North. Funding was cut by £412 per eligible child in the north, compared to £283 per child in the rest of England.
  • The report estimates that the cost of lost learning to children of the North will be equivalent to £24.6 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes.

Child of the North: Recommendations

The report makes 18 distinct policy recommendations. Taken together they represent a multi-agency approach which doesn’t just focus on schools.

The report recommends the government needs to invest in child health care and welfare services as well as education, focussing on early years care. This is the most effective way to make sure children are well fed and get a decent foundation before starting school.

The report is also a big supporter of schemes such as Sure Start.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This report reminds us that social class inequalities remain today, and that there is a regional dimension to them.

The report supports the kind of education policies that New Labour introduced, such as Sure Start.

Should Trans People have Equal Rights?

Should Trans People have Equal Rights Purely on the basis of their self-declared gender?

This issue came up recently in January 2024 in the case of Rachel Meade versus Westminster Council.

Rachel Meade is a social worker who works for Westminster Council. She recently posted content on Facebook which criticised the idea that society should just accept trans’ people’s self-declarations of their own gender, irrespective of their biological sex.

Specifically, she was critical of the idea that individuals who are biologically male but declaring themselves female should be allowed the same rights as people whose sex is biologically females.

picture of Rachel Meade
Rachel Meade

Context: Criticising changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act

The 2004 Gender Recognition Act states that society only needs to recognises a transgender person’s self-declared gender if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and consulted with two medical professionals.

Recently, it was proposed to change this so that social institutions should recognise a transgender person’s self-declared gender purely on the basis of that self-declaration. That is, without any formal medical consultations.

Rachel Meade had been critical of these proposed changes, pointing out that social institutions had encouraged the following:

  • allowing trans women who are biologically male to enter female only public spaces such as changing rooms and toilets.
  • encouraging schools to support pupils transitioning without informing their parents.
  • some police forces had recorded crimes as being committed by women when the perpetrators were biologically male.

One of Meade’s Facebook ‘friends’ informed Westminster Council of the above, arguing her views were discriminatory against Trans people. Westminster Council responded by ‘bullying’ Meade into silence, but she fought back with the help of Social Work England.

Last week the courts found that Westminster Council had discriminated against Meade by not allowing her to express her gender critical beliefs. They also found that her specific content on Facebook had not discriminated against Trans people as it wasn’t demanding the removal of rights just on the basis of people being Trans. Rather her arguments were nuanced, referring to the belief that Trans people should only be granted equal rights if their gender-identity had been sanctioned by professionals.

Should there be some limits to Trans rights…?

Gender identity is a protected characteristic under the 2010 equality act, so on that basis Trans people have the right to freedom of expression and gender recognition based on their own interpretation of their gender.

However the problem is when we look at the rights of Trans women (who are biologically men) to enter female only spaces, especially those where women may be vulnerable.

Examples where this doesn’t seem to make sense would be domestic violence support groups for women, and medical settings where women may only want to be seen by a Doctor is biologically female.

If social institutions were to allow and support trans people to have full equal rights in their institutional settings this would deny vulnerable women the right to be seen by someone who is their own sex.

This is a tricky issue and an evolving one. At the very least I think professionals need to be allowed freedom of speech to contribute openly to the debate!

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