The New Global Governance Of Paid Domestic Work

Delhi 2In recent years, one could see the progressive development of a multi-layered and highly heterogeneous framework for the governance of paid domestic work based on the interplay between different types of global and local actors. In the process, the condition of paid domestic workers – their poor conditions and the discrimination they face in different parts of the world – has come to be seen as a global problem, whose governance is a challenge going beyond national borders. It is from this perspective that this project elaborates on how, by studying the case of paid domestic work, we describe the process by which issues of local governance are transferred to the global level. This question will be answered both at the theoretical level, examining the tension between local and global dimensions in governance, as well as at the empirical level, through the analysis of the interplay between different actors in this process.

However, the study of the global governance of paid domestic work poses some questions also from the social and cultural point of view due to the specificity of paid domestic work in each national context. In fact, while in Europe and North America, paid domestic work at present concerns mainly the employment of transnational migrants by households who lack sufficient support from the welfare state, in South-Africa and other formerly colonised countries, it is essentially rooted in the legacy of racial apartheid; in Latin America, domestic work is mainly a job for racialised, indigenous and rural populations, while in India it still stems from caste-based differences. This diversity is paralleled by a difference in the social groups that perform it: undocumented migrants, low-caste women, or black and indigenous women, depending on the context. From this perspective, this project explores how the cultural specificities that affect the definition of the issue (i.e. the social meaning of paid domestic work and the diverse social groups that are employed in this sector) are accounted for, in the new the global governance of paid domestic work.

It is through the analysis of these interrelated research questions that this research project explores the strengths and pitfalls of the new global governance of paid domestic as it has unfolded so far, and also foresees some suitable developments. 

>>RADIO interview about domestic workers' movement (in Italian)