By Ansar Abu Fara
“Best Mother’s Day Offers: your maid with the highest specifications and quality! 5% discount on various nationalities”
This was the content of one of the ads published by a local office recruiting foreign domestic workers in Amman. It is not a cookware advertisement or the like, but it including promotional messages to attract the customer, using a hook of offers and facilities, assuming everything could be handled as a commodity and assigned a price.
While reading through difference ads, you will find it hard to spot any difference between an advertisement for domestic workers or for any usual product. The formula is based on the “commodification” of domestic workers as a means of persuading the recipient and pushing him/her towards making a choice.
Advertising is now one of the main elements through which the consumer recognizes the products and services that meets his/her renewable needs, so there is no need to resort to exaggeration in the ad formats. Needless to say that in the case of recruitment offices, the presentation of domestic workers as a consumer good is not considered humane, but reality is that the content of the advertisement is defined and rule by the market logic. Advertisers are increasingly resorting to highlighting the consumer value of what they promote, and as they become more interested in the advertising service, the decision to buy in many situations has become linked to advertising and offers.
The competing offices recruiting female domestic workers share the same advertisement formula, while ignoring the moral and psychological problems linked to introducing humans as goods. After monitoring the advertisements circulating the websites of these offices, their pages on the social media platforms, and in the newspapers, it was noticed that they all, in practice, put a price tag on the workers, and although these women are not goods, the marketing rituals that mimic consumerism have reached them.
In the absence of any monitoring on the contents of the advertisements published in various media outlets, the extent of abuses practiced by these advertiser has expanded, mainly because they noticed that the newspapers give them the freedom to choose the content without any restrictions.
Content of Ads
Within one month, the writer of the report followed advertisements published by the recruitment offices in two ad newspapers: Al Waseet and Al Mawtaz. Moreover, 15 posts were monitored on the Facebook pages of the two newspapers.
The content of the ads that have been monitored is mostly similar and follows the same format. They all offer discounts and offers, and use the terms “special offer” (5% discount on all nationalities), (Amazing offers on workers from Uganda), and (Replace your worker within 55 days).
In view of the way in which the ads are displayed, it commodification of the workers is very obvious. All ads seem to be keen on including a picture of a woman with a beautiful body while doing the cleaning work as a visually attractive promotion technique. The aim is to get the advertisement to influence the reader, who is usually looking for home cleaning services and following ads from different offices to compare them and get the best offer.
Those who follow the advertisements on domestic workers receive promises from the advertised offices that they will receive the best features and the most suitable prices. These promises are only limited by the limits of the imagination. The advertisements offer a picture that is far from the real objective reality, according to the mass media professor, Mohammed Abu-Rab.
The above phrases convey meanings related to events that interests to a wide range of consumers. Recruitment offices take advantage of these opportunities to launch offers that include discounts on the recruitment of women workers, and they succeed in attracting the reader, ignoring any and all values for the sake of profit
Observations revealed that 17.8% of the ads used the word “special offers”, while 48.9% of the ads used “competitive prices” or “lowest prices”.
The same type of advertisements and publications was practiced repeatedly through social media, reinforcing commodification and the stereotyped image of migrant workers as being at the disposal of the Office with no choice but to work to provide for their destitute families. This is the main purpose behind all the forms of exploitation from which they suffer.
As a woman, the worker is not a tradable commodity subject to the concept of supply and demand. She is not a invaluable entity that can be easily transformed into advertising material published, promoted and used around the market in an act classified as a form of human exploitation.
Is the media colluding with the advertiser?
An advertisement is a mean of promotion for sale, but its content is determined by the benefit that can be attributed to the owner of the capital. However, when the commodification becomes the mean, that’s when human beings are stripped of their humanity.
For its part, the newspapers detach themselves from the matter and transfer responsibility to the recruitment offices themselves, as they determine the wording of the ads and the items to be included in them, without any interference from the newspaper.
After contacting the marketing departments of Al-Waseet and Al-Momtaz newspapers, we received an answer that the newspaper does not review the contents of the advertisements, but only confirms the legality of the office with the Ministry of Labor.
On the other hand, Facebook is an open space in which offices publish what they like on their pages. The ads published on Facebook do not differ in their content and trends. They often begin with “best price” or “installments” as a way to attract the reader. All offices are the same form/template in their ads, which strips the value of everything and converts it to a commodity.
These advertisements deludes the consumer into believing that the presence of the worker will be the source of happiness and comfort to him by conveying messages about (accuracy of work, the best service, the best qualities, trained workers). The equation is clear: the worker’s presence at home will bring comfort to the family, as if the presence of a worker with the described qualities is an equivalent of happiness and comfort. This in itself is a deliberate attempt to convert the worker into a mere machine and strip their humanity.
In many cases, the reality may be far from the temptations offered by the advertisement. There are many experiences that have encountered difficulties in dealing with workers, or have been unable to cope with the new situation, according to the social worker, and the head of the Gender Counseling Center, Ismat Husso.
Husso believes that the recruitment offices must find a mechanism to ensure the psychological and physical integrity of the workers. This will important for the successful communication with the beneficiaries, without resorting to the exploitation of workers through advertisements or others.
Violation of human rights
The director of the Tamkeen Center for Legal Aid, Linda Kalash, reveals that the advertisements used by recruitment agencies for promotion reflect a negative and condescending view of this group, as it expresses clear commodification of humans, not to mention the videos that present a worker holding a number and citing her qualities, then ask the spectator to select her over other women workers.
“All these methods involve an affront to human dignity,” Kalash said, stressing that the heated competition between the recruitment offices is not a justification for using this propaganda method, which is a violation to human rights that amounts to slavery.
The expert in labor affairs, lawyer Hamada Abu Nijmeh, emphasizes the need to use more humane ad formats to inform the public about the services provided by these offices. Meanwhile, Abu Nijmeh does not exempt media, especially the newspapers, from its responsibility to review the contents of the advertisements, as she believes that these media outlets play a role in the consolidation of a particular culture, using certain phrases that have become commonplace.
Specific ad format
Tariq Al-Nutti, deputy head of the union of recruitment office owners, said that there is a specific form of commercial advertising that is binding to all offices. This form requires the offices to mention the nationalities of their workers, contact information, the date on which the dates are expected to arrive, and any reference to prices or to special gifts and discounts.
Al-Nutti considers that it is not permissible to include any terms that present the workers as a product. The offices that use such a formula are violating the instructions, and the union re-orients them, noting that their percentage does not exceed 2% of the total recruitment offices.
Jordan annually imports between 15,000 and 20,000 female domestic workers through 190 recruitment offices approved by the Ministry of Labor. The ministry is responsible for supervising these offices in terms of their compliance with the licensing conditions. It also ensures that the women workers are employed under a work contract specifying wages, hours of work, and health insurance of the workers. However, the ministry is not responsible for monitoring the ads issued by these offices, despite its rejection of any terms that harm the humanity of the worker, according to the media spokesman of the ministry, Mohammed Al-Khatib.
In fact, there is no legislation to regulate advertising in Jordan. Therefore, this remains dependent on the extent of the commitment of the advertiser and the media to ethical practices and their sense of responsibility towards the public and society. Furthermore, the Jordanian Press and Publications Law lacks any article relating to advertisements although Article 5 stipulates that no publication is allowed to violate human rights.
Although Jordan has acceded to many international conventions and agreements containing rules and practical measures to combat the exploitation of persons, especially women and children, there is no charter dealing with all aspects of human trafficking.
Under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime, the definition of “trafficking in human beings” includes all forms of exploitation in the case of domination or vulnerability, which applies to migrant workers, who are often forced to accept this job, because of adverse and harsh conditions.
Commodification has oozed into all aspects of life and deprived it from ay humanity. Women and children are often subjected to the worst forms of commodification and exploitation. This is especially the case with (working class) women, such as maids or factory workers, as the owners of these professions, which are considered among the most profitable, can be involved in and practicing a great deal of slavery. Migrant workers are often forced to accept these jobs, because of adverse and harsh conditions.
The story was published on Amman Net website: “https://bit.ly/2GedHt8
* Supported by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR)