This paper addresses the nexus of domiciliary care demand and vulnerable migrant women recruited as domestic workers, focusing on the role of two types of organizations operating at the meso-level: commercial companies and nongovernmental organizations. The purpose of this paper is to identify the ways in which these organizations seek to change the dynamics of paid domestic work and explore how they attempt to shape the voice of domestic workers and their employers.
An actor-based approach is applied to the metropolitan area of Lisbon, a relevant setting for empirical research given local developments in the realms of care, employment, migration, and public policy. Qualitative case study techniques of data collection and analysis are adopted. The analysis is based on institutional records and open-ended interviews with managers of commercial companies and activists of nongovernmental organizations. Background contributions are drawn from interviews with domestic workers, private employers, and privileged informants.
Data from fieldwork demonstrate that the organizations under examination offer a significant and innovative contribution to raise and shape the voice of both paid domestic workers and their employers. More than introducing a radical perspective on the nature or content of domestic work, these organizations are engaged in stimulating a more efficient and sustainable organization of paid care in private households.
Given the novelty of the approach, the present analytical endeavour is chiefly exploratory and much of the regulatory interactions and behavioural patterns remains in the penumbra. Suggestions for future research include a more systematic and detailed scrutiny of the role of organizations, as well as the incorporation of other institutional actors such as state bodies and charitable organizations active in this field.
The findings show that commercial companies and nongovernmental organizations may become increasingly influential in the negotiation of working conditions for domestic workers while they remain highly experimental collective actors. The policy recommendation is to incorporate them as privileged subjects and actors in the public debate about the topical nexus of care crisis and migrant domestic labour. From the standpoint of social policy, the marketization of care provision is still lacking this crucial step: empowering representative bodies and fostering dialogue between them.
The original emphasis on a meso-level of analysis and the choice of empirical qualitative examination – against a normative landscape of public regulation at the top and individualized actors down below – furthers the understanding of the topic and paves the way to promising developments in both scholarly research and policy debate.
This paper draws on results from the PhD research project “Domestic services and migrant workers: the negotiation of the employment relationship”, conducted within the Doctoral Programme in Economic and Organizational Sociology at the Technical University of Lisbon. The author thanks the respondents interviewed during fieldwork and various fellow researchers who provided helpful comments. This work was supported by the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, Portugal (grant SFRH/BD/61181/2009).
Abrantes, M. (2014), "Domiciliary care and migrant domestic workers: grasping the new institutional landscape", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 9/10, pp. 593-608. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-04-2013-0050Download as .RIS
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