FINDINGS FROM UCLA LABOR CENTER’S PROFILE OF DOMESTIC WORKERS IN CALIFORNIA
Domestic work is an indispensable part of American life. Domestic workers provide childcare, homecare, and housecleaning services to support families, individuals, older adults, and people with illnesses or disabilities. Essential to the functioning of our economy and a more caring and sustainable future, domestic workers ensure our children, aging grandparents, and loved ones who are managing chronic illnesses or disabilities receive the assistance they need to live healthy and dignified lives. However, this work remains largely excluded from basic employment protections and benefits that can ensure the health and safety of domestic workers.
This report is part of a series of UCLA Labor Center studies that capture the experience of workers and employers in the domestic work sector. This industry lacks the structure common to others, and the resulting absence of regular and predictable practices leads to wide variations in work and pay arrangements. Studies have shown that domestic workers also experience wage theft, health and safety violations, and harassment. A recent survey of domestic workers found workplace risks similar to those of nurses in hospital or cleaners in commercial buildings. Unlike other low-wage industries, domestic work is hidden behind closed doors and lacks government oversight or support. In addition, household employers often do not consider themselves as such or see their homes as workplaces.
A few key findings:
• The domestic work sector is staffed primarily by immigrant women of color. Many studies have connected the gendered and racial makeup of the industry to the lack of legal protections, low pay, and workplace vulnerabilities. In 2018, three quarters of domestic workers were Latinx, Asian American/Pacific Islander, or Black women. Over half were foreign-born (58%), with the majority from Mexico (41%), the Philippines (11%), and El Salvador (10%). The vast majority of domestic workers were middle-aged or older.
• The majority of domestic workers (80%) labored year-round—47 or more weeks a year—and about half worked full-time.
• The majority of domestic workers were low-wage earners (77%). The median wage for domestic workers was $10.79 per hour, barely half of what all other workers in California earned. Domestic work is essential work. The current COVID-19 pandemic and its risks to domestic workers and employers makes the need for employer education, worker protections, and health and safety regulations in the home even more urgent and vital.