In the depth of shadows: domestic work, gender and immigration

  • Manuel Abrantes


The bibliography on gender roles, welfare state policies and labour market developments helps us understand the continued existence of domestic services in the contemporary economy. However, little is known about the composition or dynamic of this branch of activities. The present article looks at a set of relevant studies and examines data from Statistics Portugal and the Social Security Service, mapping the evolution of paid domestic labour in the first decade of the 21st century in Portugal. The data suggest a considerable increase in both the intensity and the informal nature of the work. The author argues that the convenient alliance between a lack of social protection on the one hand and flexibility on the other is reversing the process of growing formalisation that characterised domestic service at the beginning of the decade, casting it back into an underground status.