Race, Class, Women and the State: The Case of Domestic Labour
During the 1950s, a growing number of women, including married women with children, entered the paid labor force. Many women who had traditionally been employed as domestic servants left their employment for jobs where remuneration was higher, hours of work better defined and protective measures applied. The State then turned to other countries, to women of color from the Third World, notably the Caribbean and the Philippines for domestic workers. This led to a change in immigration policy; the State began to import foreign domestic workers to work for low wages, under adverse conditions, with no labor and mobility rights. North America was seen by these women as an economic opportunity, even if they were forced to work as domestics, the wages were higher than in their country of origin.
Tanya Schecter argues that the State consciously acted to take advantage of these women's desperation, of their poverty, in order to find a cheap supply of domestics for its own citizens while limiting its own social expenditures.
In "Race, Class, Women and the State" she traces the role of the State in setting the policies that have allowed North American women to increase their participation in the public sphere, while at the same time keeping the public-private divide and its attendant value structure much the same as they were at the turn of the century: that is, domestic labor and child care remain women's responsibility and are valued less than work performed in the public sphere. It shows how women are overwhelmingly forced to work a double day. Moreover, for many immigrant women of color, their double day increasingly takes place in the home as they are forced to work in other women's homesperforming domestic duties for low wages.
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