Chronological, geographical scope and historical actors.
Through her book, Prof. Hondagneu-Sotelo explores the life of migrant domestic workers in Los Angeles. She highlights their experiences at work. Most of her publications focus on the plight of immigrants. She submits, in the preface of this publication, that her aim was to explore the organisation of domestic work, as well as concerns of the workers and employers at large.
The research is based on findings from Los Angeles, California. The author says that most of the interviews were done at respondents’ homes. The author says “I drove great distances around Los Angeles county,” (preface), this confirms the geographical area of her research.
She alludes that by the late 20th century, the demand for domestic workers had increased with an unprecedented capacity. “In the late 20th century, new domestic demands arose”. (Hondagneu-Sotelo 4) Primarily, the publication focuses on the plight of migrant domestic workers, especially the Mexican and the Central American women.
Based on the judgements presented in the book, Prof. Hondagneu-Sotelo, seeks to answer the following questions:
- What has led to the high demands for domestic workers in Los Angeles? (Hondagneu-Sotelo 4,5 and 6)
- What are some of the challenges faced by the domestic workers in Los Angeles? (Hondagneu-Sotelo 9 – 10)
- What are some of the ways of standardizing the domestic labour market? (Hondagneu-Sotelo 186)
Research process and methodology
Qualitative research methodology was applied in this research. Data collection involved direct interviewing of the workers and their employees separately. The author states that she used “non random survey” in the research process and interviewed 153 immigrants (Hondagneu-Sotelo 1).Collected data was eventually organised and analysed.
Expansion of the occupation
Prof. Sotelo attributes expansion of the domestic labour occupation to the increased number of employed women who are married and have children (Hondagneu-Sotelo 3). This essentially means that the employed women need caretakers to look after their babies in their absence.
In addition, due to the fact that many people are employed and are “working long hours,” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 4), there is a demand for caregivers in their houses. Inequality in the amount of income earned also points to the humongous increase in domestic workers, not forgetting the unbalanced income distribution among the population. (Hondagneu-Sotelo 6).
Attraction and Challenges
Live -in was common with immigrants referred to as the “new arrivals” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 30) indicating those who were still new in the US. They preferred living with their employers to save on the cost of living, which allowed them to send enough money back home. However, it deprived the worker of her privacy. “Working in larger homes……, is no guarantee of privacy…” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 32).
These workers enjoy more private life since they live away from their employers. They earn more than the live-in workers. “Today, most Americans who hire a domestic worker who comes on a daily basis do so to meet their needs…” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 38)
Role of Social networks and employment agencies.
Page 92 highlights roles of employment agencies in the domestic work market. They play a key role in job placement, making contracts between the employee and the employer; it is thus factual to say that they link the employers and the job seekers. “The agencies…make placements.” ”…The manager advises the employers to use a written contract.” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 102).
Page 74 outlines the significance of the social networks in the domestic work labour market. Using an example of Erlinda (domestic worker) and a Korean employer, she says that the networks aid in referral purposes.
Erlinda gets referrals for extra jobs. The networks are important in finding additional jobs cheaply and faster without engaging any employment agency.” These informal referrals are cheaper and faster.” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 76)
Quoting other scholars, she asserts that domestic work is not considered to be a job because it’s privately conducted at home. Tasks done by the domestic workers have always been considered as normal and natural duties of women in expressing their maternal love (Page 26). The “personal and idiosyncratic nature” of the occupation has also led to its inconsideration as a job. (Hondagneu-Sotelo 29).
Pathways to fair job standards
To streamline the market, the author suggests:
- Clear definition of the task performed by the worker
- The worker should have autonomy and pursue her duties without being reprimanded by the employer constantly.
- Regulation of the employment agencies.
My personal opinion and preference is that the agencies should be thoroughly regulated since they act as a link between the workers and the employees.
Lessons from the book
The publication is indeed very insightful in terms of exposing the plight of immigrant workers. It emphasizes the difficulties they experience in an unregulated domestic labour market. The market thus needs regulation by the government to protect both, the workers and their employees. This will effectively alienate cases of abuse and exploitation.
Furthermore, it outlines the deep racial stratification especially in the workers’ payment (the immigrants are paid less compared to their white counterparts).
Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierette. Doméstica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows Affluence. London: University of California Press, 2001. Print.