Domestic employment in Spain: A precarious, feminized, migrated and submerged sector

All those working people participate in domestic work who, within the scope of the family home, carry out domestic tasks of caring or caring for family members or other jobs such as daycare, gardening or driving vehicles, provided that they are part of the group. of housework.

In Spain, this work is regulated as a special employment relationship through Royal Decree 1620/2011, of November 14. Since its approval, the situation has improved remarkably because, until then, domestic work was unprotected and without a clear legal framework. However, it still suffers from many shortcomings that make it a real challenge for domestic employment to fall into the category of Decent job.

Domestic work and pandemic

In global data, in November 2021 the number of affiliates to the Spanish Social Security grew for the seventh consecutive month, adding more than 730,000 people to the workplace since May.

However, one of the few sectors in which there has not been a positive increase is domestic service, according to data from the Ministry of Social Security, Inclusion and Migration from November 2021.

What are the reasons? We are going to expose two (out of many possible) without going into evaluating them because neither of them is good for the sector:

  1. The fear of covid-19 that has generated reluctance to allow people outside the family nucleus to enter homes. This reason is new as it stems from the pandemic.

  2. The other, more traditional, are the costs of affiliation for employers (families). This makes it difficult for informal work to emerge and reinforces the idea (known, proven, denounced and persistent) that domestic employment continues to be one of the strengths of the underground economy.

Labor rights

What rights do people who work in the domestic sphere have?

  • They are entitled to the minimum interprofessional salary calculated annually (in cash) with two extra payments. In the case of hourly work in an external regime, in 2021 you will not be able to pay less than 7.55 euros per hour (including the proportional part of Sundays, holidays, extra pay and vacations).

  • The maximum weekly working hours will be forty hours of effective work, without prejudice to the time of presence, which must be agreed between the parties and may not exceed 20 hours a week on average in a month.

  • Rest periods: 12 hours between working hours for external workers and 10 for internal domestic workers. Two hours for main meals, thirty-six consecutive hours of weekly rest and 30 calendar days of annual leave, in addition to the right to enjoy the holidays provided for the rest of the workers.

  • Right to compensation at the end of the employment relationship.

In addition, these workers contribute to be entitled to benefits in the event of common illness or occupational accident, although they are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

A pending right

The issue of unemployment benefit is an old claim, a historical claim from people employed in the home. So is the request to the Government to ratify ILO Convention 189. Said agreement establishes in its article 14:

“Every Member, taking due account of the specific characteristics of domestic work and acting in accordance with national legislation, shall adopt appropriate measures in order to ensure that domestic workers enjoy conditions no less favorable than the conditions applicable to workers in general. with regard to the protection of social security, including in relation to maternity ”.

Spain has committed itself on innumerable occasions to ratify this agreement, but to date it has not done so. In April 2021, the Vice President and Minister of Labor Yolanda Díaz announced that the government had already started the procedures prior to signing the treaty. But for the moment, and according to ministry sources, it is still in that preliminary phase.

Throughout the pandemic, and on a temporary basis, new measures were implemented to improve or provide coverage to different groups affected by the pandemic situation. Thus, for the first time, the need to protect domestic workers was taken into account. They were granted an extraordinary subsidy, although the number of applications submitted and finally approved has been very low as a consequence of the difficulties in applying and subsequent management.

Woman, migrant and domestic worker

We cannot end this presentation without highlighting the reality of the domestic work sector: we are facing a markedly precarious sector, with a significant presence of immigrant women and in many cases immersed in the underground economy.

One of the main characteristics of this work is that it is carried out mainly by women. Men rarely apply for care, cleaning or cooking tasks, historically considered more of them than of them.

Domestic service has become one of the main sources of employment for immigrant women from developing countries who are trying to enter the labor market in Spain. In this case, it is necessary to highlight the special vulnerability of these women, both because of the loneliness in which they already find themselves as immigrants, and because of the isolation that domestic work itself supposes.

In pursuit of better labor regulation

Thus, one of the most positive aspects of the regulation of the sector has been the creation of associations of domestic workers, which has allowed a better channeling of their demands, as well as the support of the unions.

The fact of not having co-workers supposes isolation and makes it difficult to claim their rights, which is why the support of associations and unions is essential. Also the Labor Inspection has more difficult to do its work in this sector because the home is considered inviolable.

If previously the regulation of domestic work was one of the thorniest issues in labor law, with the COVID-19 this circumstance has been aggravated, reaffirming the vulnerability of the sector and evidencing the need for changes in its regulations.

The regulation of domestic work is not only a question of rights: it is also a question of gender. For this reason, it continues to be one of the most pressing and important social and labor challenges.

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