11 December 2017
Here Adorno is Doing the Cleaning
Pape, Karin.

This letter to the editor was written by Karin Pape, Deputy Director of WIEGO's Organization and Representation Programme. In response to an article about hiring domestic workers, she writes that domestic work is a service and not per sé bad or right, but that it depends on the conditions for the worker. She argues the following:

Household related services - OUTSIDE of the private household - don't cause any moral outrage. It is considered okay to eat out and not worry about the working conditions of the cooking staff in the kitchen who are most likely migrant workers, among them often undocumented without proper pay and no labour rights. The same is true if I give my shirts to a cleaning company which organizes the ironing. When I work in an office, it is okay that a worker is cleaning my desk and the floors - because I am not personally exploiting this person. If I hire the same worker to do the same services in my private home there is a perception that this is work without dignity. Private households can create many jobs and thus prevent many workers, in particular women, from needing to ask for social assistance. It is not the work which is without dignity, but rather the working conditions which are disrespectful.  It is not easy in Germany to be a good employer of a domestic worker but there are agencies which pay wages according to collective agreements, which include contributions to the social protection systems, sick pay and holiday.  Is there a right way of living in a wrong world? Not entirely but there are different levels.

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