Ethnographies of Accommodation and Resistance
Edited by Rob Lambert and Andrew Herod
Chapter 10: Sweatshop citizenship, precariousness and organizing building cleaners
Arguably, it is to already vulnerable workforces that neoliberalism is doing the most damage (Wills et al. 2010). For example, in the Global North many low-paid public sector workers are suffering from privatization, whilst all workers face contracting out, deregulation, labour law ‘reform’ (Aguiar 2004) and the restructuring of the welfare state (Gustafson 2011). In the Global South many formal and informal sector workers are intensifying their domestic labour to extend meagre incomes and make ends meet. Significantly, in both the Global North and the Global South it is often women who bear the brunt of this process. To highlight the impacts of such restructuring upon just one group of service workers, Bezuidenhout and Fakier (2006, p._50) detail the experiences of a South African woman who worked for the University of the Witwatersrand and who dramatically intensified her domestic labour to compensate for declining wages. She did so by avoiding the expensive pre-prepared foods of supermarkets and instead slaughtered, cleaned and chopped two live chickens she bought per month, as well as baked her own bread. Her story is evocative of that of millions of women across the globe. As Bezuidenhout and Fakier (2006, p._51) note: In order for poor women to ensure the survival of their families on meager incomes, then, they will subsidize the budget for food with their own labour.
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