Working at Others' Homes

The Specifics and Challenges of Paid Domestic Work

Edited by Neetha N.

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Paid domestic work is historically as well as culturally embedded, and exhibits considerable social and regional inequalities. In many ways, domestic workers share commonalities with unpaid housewives whose work is unrecognized and undervalued socially and economically. The working conditions of domestic workers are similar to that of most informal sector workers, who grapple with poor wages, intense employment insecurity, abysmal social security and welfare measures, and limited legal rights. At the same time, paid domestic work contests many notions and conceptualizations of employment, work and workplace, and questions the understanding that formal employment relations exist only in public domains. It challenges the understanding of the domestic sphere as private, and a site of love and care. Further, the inequalities of gender, caste and class are reproduced, reinvented and negotiated in domestic work relations.

The essays in this volume address some of these complicated terrains and uncharted territories of paid domestic work. They reflect upon and analyse the phenomenal increase in the demand for domestic work and the trend of feminization in this occupation during a period of overall decline in female employment. The volume brings together different accounts which point to the specificity of paid domestic work as gendered housework that underlines and defines work arrangements and labour relations. It also documents and analyses various organizational and legal initiatives around domestic work, thus offering interesting insights for future interventions, in terms of both policy and advocacy.

Neetha N.

Neetha N. is Professor and Acting Director at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi. Before joining CWDS, she was Associate Fellow and Coordinator, Centre for Gender and Labour, at the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDA. Her core themes of research interest are employment and female labour migration, specifically covering areas such as the changing dimensions of women’s employment, gender statistics, the socio-political and economic dimensions of care work, and migration for domestic work. She is one of the lead authors of the chapter on ‘Pluralization of Families’ in the Report of the International Panel on Social Progress, 2018.