Domestic workers and Covid-19

Migrant women working in domestic service have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by virtue of their social position and legal status. This project aims to study the effects of the pandemic on these women’s lives.

  • Project description

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    Female domestic workers from a migrant background play an essential role in keeping society functioning. They are indispensable to the wellbeing of many households, notably by providing care services for children, the elderly and the sick. However, their work is underestimated. The Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on their living conditions. At present, however, little is known about the effects of the pandemic on these women as a function of their residence status (type of permit or no permit), the nature of their work (formal or informal) and their capacity to act (agency). This project sets out to fill this gap in our current knowledge.

  • Background

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    While the Covid-19 pandemic brought instability to everyone’s lives, certain groups were particularly affected. Women working in the domestic services sector are one of these groups. They are at the bottom of the social ladder, particularly in terms of their class, citizenship and gender, and also have to contend with restrictive migration policies. This state of affairs raises questions about their ability to overcome the inequalities and discriminations facing them.

  • Aim

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    This project will investigate how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of female domestic workers from a migrant background and the forms of agency they have developed to cope with this public health crisis.

    We will conduct 128 biographical interviews with migrant women working in domestic services and 60 semi-structured interviews with representatives of social services and public health organisations in Bern, Fribourg, Geneva and Zurich, the four cantons covered by the study.

  • Relevance

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    The results obtained will enable us to better understand the strategies used by vulnerable groups from a critical, agency-based perspective. The results will also augment the body of work on irregular migration in Switzerland by focusing on a population that has received little attention from researchers in the country and by undertaking a novel investigation of the effects of residence and employment status on vulnerability and agency.

  • Application

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    By virtue of the marginalised position of migrant women working in domestic services in the Swiss social security system, a case study centring on their vulnerability and agency could provide information that is particularly valuable for social action. The project will therefore make an important contribution to our scientific understanding of social policy by focusing on the needs and perspectives of marginalised groups.

  • Original title

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    Hypervulnerability and Agency: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Migrant Women Working in the Domestic Services Sector