Information needs of local domestic workers in the Arab Republic of Egypt

Essam A. H. Mansour
  • The Electronic Library, August 2015, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/el-01-2014-0012

Information needs of local domestic workers in the Arab Republic of Egypt

What is it about?

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to provide first-hand information regarding domestic labour/labourers in Egypt. The researcher tries to investigate the information rights and needs of these vulnerable and marginalized groups in Egypt in terms of its thoughts, perceptions, attitudes, motivations, techniques, preferences, ways, tools and problems encountered towards using of and accessing information. The study, therefore, attempts to look at, as possible, the many different characteristics of local domestic workers in Egypt and affecting their use of and access to information. Design/methodology/approach – Methodology used here was an adaptive form of snowball sampling of a heterogeneous demographic group of participants in the local domestic work in Egypt, used to select focus groups to explore a range of relevant issues. Findings – Demographically, this study showed that local domestic labour in Egypt, to a great extent, is occupied and performed by women and children, and the average age of the total interviewed participants was around 31 years. Over half of participants were uneducated, followed by nearly a quarter of them were with no formal education and just a small number had some primary education. This study concluded that a large number of participants were described as illiterate and nonskilled labourers. Participants’ income proved that it was one of barriers to use of and access to information where a large number of participants were labelled as low-income workers. The information-seeking behaviour (ISB) profile of participants indicated a preference for verbal over written, informal over formal and undocumented over documented information channels and sources to solve problems relating to everyday existence using some helping tools and devices especially cell phones. The most popular information sources mentioned and followed by participants were verbal information with friends, peers and colleagues in neighbouring households either via telephones, especially cell phones, or face-to-face meeting. TV and Radio, newspapers and magazines were, respectively, the most famous formal sources participants use. Information related to work, family affairs, security and health issues was most commonly desired and wanted by participants. Participants mentioned that their priorities of accessing information were to help in work-related activities such as cooking cleaning and decorating, to know new kitchen recipes, to assist in the education of the employer’s children. Others added that they were also seeking for information for getting promoted and having some fun especially through audiovisual sources like TV and Radio. They were not commonly using libraries due to the fact that most of them were uneducated, and the education of the some others was limited. However, this study showed that there was a little and accidental use for some libraries like public and children libraries and a small number of them was using the employer’s home library. In terms of using technologies related to the use of information like the Internet, the study found such access was an issue, as a very small number of participants were using it mainly for personal information. Regarding challenges, concerns and problems faced by local domestic workers in Egypt during using of and accessing information, the study found that the most important challenges participants faced in this study were the illiteracy and lack of awareness about the basic rights and perception of information rights and needs. Other challenges like the time, psychological burdens, the social image being domestic worker, lack of accessible information channels, lack of training and skills and also lack of money needed to access information were also an issue. Research limitations/implications – This study comes to respond strongly to the great global concern on the neglected and marginalized sector of work/workers in Egypt. It provides information on invisible forms of domestic labour/labourers, and indicates how their rights, especially towards accessing information, are violated. Any findings of this study may generate interest and create awareness on the needs and conditions of domestic labour/labourers among marginalized labour advocates, policymakers and the civil society. Originality/value – The literature on this topic is scarce and, therefore, this paper gives important and significant insight into how to assist local domestic workers in Egypt with information needs.

Why is it important?

The purpose of this study is to provide first-hand information regarding domestic work and workers in the Arab Republic of Egypt and, thus, respond vigorously to global concern over this neglected sector of workers. Significantly, this study is considered the first one of its kind in the Arab and Egyptian environment to discuss these neglected issues and topics compared to other vital issues. The researcher investigates the information needs of local domestic workers in Egypt in terms of their thoughts, perceptions, attitudes, motivations, techniques, preferences, ways, tools and challenges they may confront towards the use of and access to information. As much as possible, the study attempts to look at the many different characteristics of Egyptian domestic workers that may affect their use of and access to information. Any findings of this study may generate interest and create awareness of the conditions and needs of domestic workers among marginalized labour advocates, policymakers and civil society. Such awareness may help motivate researchers to add this neglected area to their research agenda.

Perspectives

Professor Essam Mansour
South Valley Univeristy (SVU)

Dr Essam Mansour is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Department of Library and Information Science (DLIS), South Valley University (SVU), Qena, Egypt. He holds a BA in Library and Information Science from Cairo University (Egypt), an MLIS in the same major from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and a PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/el-01-2014-0012

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Essam Mansour