Of Domestic Duties


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An additional argument has been made that because their work takes place within the private sphere, they are often rendered invisible and employers are able to withhold their travel documents, confining them to their employers' home and inhibiting their access to legal redress. Those making this argument assert that the result of what they refer to as a power dynamic and an asserted lack of labour rights, is that domestic workers are often forbidden to contact their families and often go months, years, and even decades without seeing their families, whose lives their remittances are supporting.

Working moms still take on bulk of household chores

Further, it has been argued that their ability to fill labour shortages and accept positions within the reproductive labour force that citizens of their host countries would reject underpins the development of the global capitalist system, [40] Simultaneously, and that they are enabling the beneficiaries of their remittances in the South to ascend the social ladder.

To some, these arguments lead to a conclusion that both circumstances in the North and South constitute embodied debt through the improvement of one's life at the expense of another's hardship, and that the labour of such workers is too often not seen as work, due to the association of their gendered bodies with reproductive labour. However, on June 17, , after 70 years of lobbying by civil society groups, the ILO adopted a convention with the aim of protecting and empowering domestic workers.

Much of lobbying that contributed toward the ratification of ILO C was done by domestic workers groups, demonstrating that they are not merely victims but agents of change. That only two labour receiving countries have ratified the convention has been argued by some to demonstrates the reluctance of governments to acknowledge what such advocates see as a debt owed by society to such workers and to repay that perceived debt.

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Such advocates assert that the ratification and enforcement of ILO C would mean that migrant domestic workers would enjoy the same labour rights as other more 'masculine' fields as well as the citizens of their destination countries. An incomplete list of basic rights guaranteed by ILO C under Article 7 includes: maximum working hours; fixed minimum wages; paid leave; provision of food and accommodation; and weekly rest periods. Guaranteeing these rights to migrant domestic workers would not constitute repayment the embodied debt owed to them, but they are entitled to these rights as they are both workers and human beings.

As women currently dominate the domestic labor market throughout the world, they have learned to navigate the system of domestic work both in their own countries and abroad in order to maximize the benefits of entering the domestic labor market.

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Among the disadvantages of working as a domestic worker is the fact that women working in this sector are working in an area often regarded as a private sphere. Additionally, domestic laborers face other disadvantages. Their isolation is increased by their invisibility in the public sphere and the repetitive, intangible nature of their work decreases its value, making the workers themselves more dispensable.

Live-in nannies for example may sacrifice much of their own independence and sometimes become increasingly isolated when they live with a family of which they are not part and away from their own. While working in a dominantly female privatized world can prove disadvantageous for domestic workers, many women have learned how to help one other move upward economically. Women find that informal networks of friends and families are among the most successful and commonly used means of finding and securing jobs.

Without the security of legal protection, many women who work without the requisite identity or citizenship papers are vulnerable to abuse. Some have to perform tasks considered degrading showing a manifestation of employer power over worker powerlessness. Employing domestic work from foreign countries can perpetuate the idea that domestic or service work is reserved for other social or racial groups and plays into the stereotype that it is work for inferior groups of people. Gaining employment in the domestic labor market can prove to be difficult for immigrant women.

Many subcontract their services to more established women workers, creating an important apprenticeship type of learning experience that can produce better, more independent opportunities in the future. Once established they have the option of accepting jobs from multiple employers increasing their income and their experience and most importantly their ability to negotiate prices with their employers. See Foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong Domestic helpers DHs, foreign domestic workers, FDWs from certain other countries, especially the Philippines and Indonesia, work in Hong Kong on specific visas that exempt employers from many obligations received by other workers, and receive a lower minimum salary.

In Kenya, domestic workers — nearly all female — are known as 'housegirls'. Often from poor villages in neighbouring Uganda , girls are open to exploitation, and there are calls for stronger legal protection. With limited skills and illiteracy, many men turned to become sharecroppers , whereas the majority of women participated in domestic work.


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Not only were they not qualified for other jobs, but they were denied other jobs and segregated from American society purely based on the color of their skin. The South wanted to keep segregation alive and hence passed legislation such as the Jim Crow Laws post-Civil war which denied African Americans of legal equality and political rights. These laws kept many African Americans as a second-class status up until new laws ended segregation in the s.

Up until the mid-twentieth century, domestic work was a prominent source of income for many women of different ethnic backgrounds. Many of these women were either African American or immigrants. More specifically, the post-civil war South had a high concentration of African Americans working as domestic workers. At the turn of the nineteenth century, there was also a high concentration of African Americans working as domestic workers in the North. Many African American women migrated to the North for better work opportunities and higher wages compared to their employment options in the South.

The African American women who worked as domestic workers were generally treated as poor, child-like beings that were seen as victims of their own ignorance of living in communities of crime and other societal infringements. It was necessary they worked along with their husbands in order to keep their families financially supported.

During the Great Depression, many domestic workers lost their jobs. This is because many white families lost their source of income and were not able to pay domestic workers to work in their home. At this time, many domestic workers relied on asking strangers on the street for housework such as cleaning. They house jumped, looking for any job that they could get. The domestic workforce was significantly impacted by the Great Depression which caused a decrease in their wages and an intolerable 18 hour workday.

Also, agricultural workers and the African American women working as domestic workers at this time were explicitly excluded from social security and the FLSA in the New Deal legislation. Even if the African American domestic workers wanted to advance in society, it was nearly impossible because the racial structures in the United States rarely allowed them class mobility.

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Working in the middle-class homes served to Americanize, allowing the workers to identify more with their employers than women of their own class and instilled an aspiration to become middle-class status. Nearly ninety percent of African American women worked as domestic workers during the Civil Rights Movement era.

It has been noted that the southern African American women were the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. Since many white households relied on the African American domestic workers for housework, the workers were able to have a direct impact on the white race when rebelling for their civil rights. The African American domestic workers boycotted buses and tried to register to vote, and many were denied and imprisoned. However, the domestic workers utilized imprisonment to educate other African American women on the Civil Rights Movement and what to do to contribute.

Additionally, typically the domestic workers rebelled in an informal manner, such as resisting to live in the same home in which they worked. By doing this, the African American domestic workers transformed the domestic services, and collective organizations came about promoting a better work environment for African American domestic workers. Their act of rebellion gave way for a change of how they were treated, how they were paid, and how they were respected.

The report stated that the Gulf country employed nearly 1. Domestic workers estimated approximately , from Indonesia, , from Sri Lanka and , from Philippines. Besides, the organization also interviewed Saudi labor and social affairs official, who acknowledged the issue of domestic worker abuse. The report stated that no accurate figure exists to highlight the total violations of labor rights and other human rights that women migrant domestic workers confront in the Arab nation. Young water carrier drawing by Heinrich Zille by Colonial dining , William Henry Jackson From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. This article is missing information about History. Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. May Main article: Child labour. See also: Restavek.

The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the Anglophone world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this section , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. June Learn how and when to remove this template message. Main article: List of domestic workers. Oxford English Dictionary 3rd ed. Oxford University Press.


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  4. September Subscription or UK public library membership required. Anti-Slavery International. Archived from the original on 30 September Retrieved 24 September International Labour Organization. Archived PDF from the original on Retrieved Archived from the original on The New York Times. The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago.

    Archived from the original on January 31, National Domestic Workers Alliance.

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