In this paper I will present results of my research regarding domestic service in Germany. I will also provide the general information about domestic service, what it is used for and by whom, as well as include general points about cultural and economic issues.
Domestic service is generally referred to as the service provided by a domestic worker who can either live within the employer’s household or come to do the cleaning and other assigned task on particularly established days. Domestic service provide the families with opportunities for doing their own jobs, spending free time the way the want it, as well as create additional working places. Many families have a strong necessity in flexible support in their daily lives, and in Germany this domestic service market has a great potential for development due to mismatch of demand and supply. Thousands of working places can be possibly generated in the sector of domestic service, but only if there are right economic conditions and sufficient investments.
It essential to mention that in Germany there is a great competition in this labor market sector, and frequently people obtain negative impression about domestic services due to hiring staff from black market and not using services of companies that specialize in providing domestic services.
Speaking about domestic service in any country, it is necessary to mention the notion of globalization, which is generally involved for the description of mutual dependency and interrelationship of economic processes by means of production orientation on the world market, as well as removal of national state welfare systems, regulation of consumer patterns of behavior, cultural practices and international migration movements, which is the most important for our research. Globalization is not the new course on the menu and nowadays it is reaching one of the most intimate territories- private households. The consequences to this extension to living and working conditions of people are obvious. The east and south of the world experience the dramatic change in their cultural, economic and gender structures during the last several decades, when the west and the north experience massive modernization and adjustments to new structures. As a result of technologization and economic transactions monopolization, boundaries between them are becoming easy crossable.
Migration movements are predominantly influenced and established by multinational companies, free trade agreements, national governments, as well as international organizations. In large and global cities, the necessity in the temporary and lowly paid service workers is stringent. All over the world, more then half of all migrants are women. And this claim has a rather factual basis, as about seventy percent of the poor people are females even though they can hold few jobs; they almost have no land, had to take care for nourishment of their children and are more likely to be subjected to unfair attitudes and physical and sexual violence in extreme situations. In case of “labor migration” their lives could be more secured, as well as lives of their families, by the legislation of the country of migration (Zimmer and Eckhard, 2000).
3. Domestic Service in Germany
In domestic service in Germany, female employment is dramatically prevailing and constantly rising. It is also essential to mention that the question of domestic labor becomes very sharp during the period of financial crisis when many women are being fired from their positions.
The segment of paid and unpaid informal labor, which is characterized by the proximity to private households, uncertainty and invisibility, is growing on a world arena. It where most part of women is employed, at worse conditions than their male colleagues and usually without the possibility of change. Nevertheless, whether women are dependant on their job in an again more strongly gender-segmented market or whether women can purchase genderless status, as well as status of flexible employee and “free entrepreneur” by delegating their primary duties to other, mainly illegalized, non-resident women depends on their social and ethnic origin (Momsen, 1999).
As I have already mentioned, male orientation towards domestic work is almost absent, therefore many families prefer to hire other people to take care of their homes. In the east of Germany the number of domestics’ employment had increased for the period from 1992 to 1997 for about three times. According to the data of 2000, about four million households (7.6 % on regular basis and 4% from time to time) employed domestics. Such employees usually work for several families on an hourly basis, therefore it can be assumed that there are about two million female workers of such profile in Germany. Only six percent from this amount, which is about forty thousand people, obtained employment that provided them with benefits of national insurance system. About seventy five percent of this total amounts belong to informal domestic service labor market and they are immigrants, they are women with documents, about 1.7 million people, who are basically assumed to live in the country without status of legal residence. This number in expected to grow in the country due to consequences of economic crisis. At this very point the racial and gender discrimination issues are being connected in the brand new manner- the labor of migrants is feminized and the work of domestics is ethnified (Sarti, 2009).
The situation with domestic service in Germany is rather special, as the notions of regulations, amnesty legislation and qualifying date rules are foreign. Labor availability is maintained by the state politics. Social standing of people employed in their countries of origin, their motives to go for working to other countries, their family status and can differ a lot, job opportunities for such people, women in particular, are rather the same: cooking, cleaning, babysitting, pet sitting, nursing care for senior people, etc. Employment terms and conditions are mainly characterized by poor pay, but of course depending on the country, isolation, part-time work, “boundlessness“, and can be usually unhealthy and heavy physical labor; employment moralization, sexual abuse risk, health insurance absence, noncompliance with labor rights, including protection against wrongful dismissal, regular salary payment, mothers’ protection (Sarti, 2009). In different communities housing opportunities, jobs, medical help and advice are provided informally. For a lasting time period, there was scarcely any lobbying, self-organization and public awareness about the domestic services regulations, and in this regard the situation in Germany is the worst from all European countries. There are different reasons for that. From one side, trade union policies continue to concentrate on white male skilled workers, so there is no practice and no structure to handle migrant or dubious employees. And from the other side, migrant women that received university education, in particular think of their employment usually just as “temporary employment” and prefer to disguise it. In consequence of having more then one job that involves long times to drive from one work to another, domestic workers do not have much time left. Some of them, such as Polish women that found occupation in Berlin, commute between their house and their working place and subsequently do not live in Germany right along. The fear of attracting useless attention and being consequently deported is also present, and that prevents many of them from the organization of improvement of their working conditions. European-wide network of Migrant Domestic Workers and their organizations of support and assistance were set up in 1998, and Respect-Deutschland was established in 2000. Main goals of those two networks, not taking into consideration their direct public awareness activities, are said to be struggling and arranging multiple campaigns for the rights of female domestic workers and their protection against violence, as well as the interchange of experience and the supply of information material(Hayden, 1981). They are said to be the network and separate organizations in which domestic workers, women from self-organized groups of migrants, support groups and advisory centers join their forces for cooperation.
In the conclusion I would like to explore the topic and find out whether the situation that is now in Germany with domestic service is a problem or the opportunity for further improvements. From one side women are scarcely protected form their employers, as well as from intervention of the authorities as their working place are referred to as private property. And problems appear to remain quite the same when coming to the issue of legalization. Mass deportations can be expected after the standardized control systems are introduced. But it is essential to focus on not obtaining permissions for residence, but on improvements of labor rights and enforcing them. However some positive steps can be also noted. For instance, in 2008 German Federal Family Ministry awarded companies that participated in the program for legal employment of domestics and this is what was said by the Minister Ursula von der Leyen on this regard: “If the price and quality are right, especially elderly people and working parents will be interested in legally provided family support services. Often, middle aged people carry a heavy burden caring for both the young and old members of their household. They want their home, children and older family members to be well looked after, without losing sight of their own goals in life. We must therefore make finding the appropriate services easier for them. If we encourage the expansion of professional family support services now, that will give people more time to enjoy with their families and create many new jobs in this country.”
- Domestic Services for Families Generate Dividends. Apr.2008. Robert Bosch Stiftung. 16 Apr. 2009 http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language2/html/18337.asp
- Hayden, Dolores. The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981.
- Momsen, Janet Henshall, ed. Gender, Migration, and Domestic Service. London: Routledge, 1999.
- Schettkat, Ronald. The Labor Market Dynamics of Economic Restructuring: The United States and Germany in Transition. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1992.
- Sarti, Raffaella. Domestic Service: Past and Present in Southern and Northern Europe. Gender and History. Blackwell Publishing, 2009.
- Zimmer, Annette, and Eckhard Priller. “The Third Sector and Labour Market Policy in Germany.” German Policy Studies 1.2 (2000): 209.