Domestic workers highly affected by the coronavirus

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The Latin American domestic workers sector was one of the most affected by the crisis.

Domestic worker cleaning a window

The sector of domestic workers in Latin America has suffered the crisis due to the coronavirus. / Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Las trabajadoras domésticas, un sector muy afectado por el coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing labor structures and relationships. To minimize the chances of contagion, many professions and jobs had to readjust. This is mentioned by the website of The New York Times, which reveals that people who are dedicated to domestic chores are facing "a full-blown humanitarian crisis", with a situation similar to that of the Great Depression.

We are talking about a very strong sector in Latin America in labor matters, but which is also going through a very serious time. For example, from the UN News website they highlight that domestic workers are "in check due to the coronavirus", because more than 55 million workers, of which 37 million are women, are affected by the social distancing measures of the pandemic.

It is one of the main job opportunities for many people, because they decide to perform cleaning or maintenance services in other people's homes. However, due to the sanitary restriction measures of the governments, and the lack of a formal contract, everything resulted in a critical situation for the sector. Let's see, then, what happens to the sector of domestic workers in Latin America with the coronavirus.

Domestic work and the health and economic crisis

Domestic workers are suffering from an economic crisis as a result of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. This is perfectly exemplified by Infobae, which mentions that they are faced with a “dilemma” in the face of the coronavirus, that is, continue working while receiving a low salary and the possibility of being infected, or being fired and having zero income.

We are talking about a really delicate situation because, in general terms, almost all families are seeing their income decrease during this pandemic. Therefore, some services are started to be dispensed with and, knowing that now many people spend more time at home and not at work, they decide to do their housework on their own.

Of course, these issues are not welcomed by unions. For example, the Carlos Paz Vivo media highlighted that the Union of Domestic and Allied Workers of Argentina repudiated the statements of the celebrity Nicole Neumann, after she endangered the health of her employee, forcing her to work during the quarantine.

A similar situation is demonstrated by the BBC, which highlights that domestic workers in Latin America seem to have turned into “slaves”. In other words, working conditions seem to have been lower than ever in the face of this scenario, since, if they keep their jobs, they have to adapt to a new and harsh context.

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Even in that sense, there is “total” uncertainty regarding the sector. The El País website highlighted that, at least in Colombia, there are about 700,000 domestic workers who have high levels of informality and who lost their jobs or had to adapt to new conditions, such as the fact of "entering" the home of their employers and losing contact with their families.

This means that, as the Semana website highlights, domestic employees must be “paid the same” for a moral obligation, even if they do not go to work. The problem occurs when, precisely, the agreement between employer and employee was never formalized.

Therefore, state support for these vulnerable sectors may be a fair measure at this difficult time. An example is given by Chile, which, according to the Telesur TV website, managed to get the Chamber of Deputies to approve a bill to incorporate workers in the sector to unemployment insurance or economic protection for the unemployed.

It is clear that, although some tasks and jobs may resume their normality "little by little", it seems that working in someone else's house in a closed space continues to be very dangerous, both for the employee and the employer. For now, it remains to be seen how this issue will be solved, waiting for the infections to begin to decrease in quantity.