Low-income ‘employers’ and adolescent domestic workers: A gendered chain of precarity in Lima’s informal sector

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Women's increased participation in the workforce in a context of capitalist-led development is happening at the expense of other women and girls in the informal service economy, particularly those who provide support in domestic services. Feminist literature has examined this issue among middle- and upper-class women, yet less is known about how low-income urban women meet their household reproduction needs in economies that provide limited state-run social services, especially around child and elder care. This paper examines the relationship between impoverished urban female heads of household precariously engaged in the informal sector in Lima, Peru, and the mostly adolescent girls they employ as domestic workers. I argue that the household services provided by young girls reinforce gendered labour in precarious work. I found that workers below the age of 16 become classified as "helpers" and are usually employed by family members and generally do not receive wages. Those aged 16 or older, however, are usually viewed as workers and do not have a family relationship with their employers but receive low wages. In both cases, the worker-employer relationship is asymmetrical and based on mutual precariousness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-89
Number of pages24
JournalLabour, Capital and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2019

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