Challenging Global Corporate Power in the 21st Century
Chapter 6. The Domestic Workers Movement—Connecting Informal Labour
THE DOMESTIC WORKERS MOVEMENT—CONNECTING INFORMAL LABOUR
The organising of domestic workers is celebrated as one of the biggest success stories of the labour movement in recent years. Despite the age of the profession, domestic workers have historically been operating on the margins of the global economy, excluded by national labour laws, government policies and trade unions. Data on the size of the workforce are difficult to collect due to the high degree of informality of the sector, but estimates suggest there are at least 53 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers, and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries. Eighty-three percent of them are women (ILO, 2014). This workforce has been the backbone of global corporate growth in the last 30 years by sustaining ‘global cities’ (Sassen, 1991) through the fulfilment of tasks and duties at low cost such as cleaning, cooking, child-care, and nursing, not otherwise sufficiently supplied by the state. Such services have enabled sections of the middle classes and the growing ‘transnational capitalist class’ (Sklair, 2002) to work longer and flexible hours away from home in the interest of capital. Keeping this labour informal has meant that the contribution these workers are making to GDPs often goes entirely unrecognised.
Over the last few years, however, there have been significant developments towards formalising this ‘invisible’ workforce within a union framework, ← 161 | 162 → pushing domestic workers out of the shadows to become recognised globally as...
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