Chapter 6: Domestic work
This chapter considers the vulnerability in theory and practice of a second labour market group: domestic workers. This group has been chosen because in a similar way to temporary agency workers, domestic workers have been identified in academic and political literature as one of the most vulnerable groups on the labour market. Conversely, this group has also been chosen because it provides an interesting contrast to the previous case study on temporary agency work: the position of domestic workers raises particular challenges both in terms of legal theory and practical legal regulation, which differ from the challenges raised by temporary agency work. Indeed, domestic work can be viewed as representing a more significant departure from the ‘standard employment relationship’ than even temporary agency work. First of all, domestic work is carried out in private homes, and domestic workers are often employed not by companies but by private individuals. Secondly, this type of work is largely carried out by women rather than men: of 18 countries surveyed by the ILO, women represented over 90 per cent of total domestic employment. Men tend only to be involved in those tasks less likely to be viewed as ‘women’s work’, such as gardening or driving. Thirdly, the percentage of domestic workers with permanent contracts tends to be very low. This is either because of the very casual nature of the work, or because the contracts exist only informally.
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