Abstract: This paper focuses on the working conditions within female housekeepers in the hospitality industry. The main focus is on housekeeping work in developed countries. This paper observes the housekeeping occupancy and points out the major issues and threats within the female workers.
Key words: housekeeping, female, hospitality
The hospitality industry is divided into several categories of fields offering versatile range of sophistication and complexity with hotels representing the most diverse business of hospitality (Onsoyen et al., 2009). The ever-growing hospitality service-sector is highly labor intensive and therefore, it is one of the leading job creators in the world.
Hotels offer three core products for consumers: accommodation, food and beverages. Accommodation represents around 55 per cent of the hotel revenue. In other words, room sales produce the biggest income for hotels and therefore, the work of very important yet invisible housekeepers is essential for hotel room sales and crucial matter for hygiene and safety of the rooms. Cleaned and prepared rooms raises customer satisfaction and profitableness of a hotel (Hunter Powell and Watson, 2006). Nevertheless, the work of housekeepers remains largely unseen and the occupation is often associated with the term ‘dirty work’, meaning the work may be perceived as degrading and unpleasant.
Housekeeping is a female dominated occupancy. The work do not often require previous work experience or special skills and therefore, it offers a quick entry to workforce which attracts not only women with limited formal education but youth and migrant workers also (Baum, 2013).
There are issues and concerns regarding the gender equality and work conditions. Occupations that are dominated by women such as housekeeping, are often poorly paid and undervalued comparing to occupations which are male dominated. For example, (mainly female) housekeepers in hotels earn fairly less than e.g. male kitchen porters. Both of these positions require different physical exertion but still are at an equivalent skills level (Baum, 2013). Housekeepers usually work on a part-time basis and are often employed by a cleaning company. They work mostly on a sub-contract, meaning the cleaning company sends the housekeepers to do the work in host companies and organizations. Even though the cleaning company is responsible by safety and health issues of the employees, the company is not in control of the working premises and environment in which the housekeepers work.
Housekeepers may be exposed to chemical hazards and biological substances at work place. Chemical hazards from different range of cleaning products may create dangerous reactions and various types of health problems within the housekeepers. Housekeepers are also exposed to biological substances such as viruses and bacteria which can cause some serious health issues.
Due to the ergonomically poor working conditions and heavy lifting, cleaners are often exposed to various types of muscle and skeleton disorders. Long-term diseases are usual within the housekeepers and therefore, the cleaners are more likely to go on early retirement due to the inability to work.
The work is often performed during ‘unsociable’ hours and therefore housekeepers may feel social isolation and due to mostly working alone they have a rising risk of being victims of violence. Housekeepers are vulnerable for harassment of hotel customers. The harassment may take a form of verbal and physical violence and can lead to long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems.
There are various challenges within the housekeeping occupancy. Even though the question of labor rights may seem to be far away from the perspective of an individual housekeeper the issue is important. The key issue for an individual housekeeper is how to get the information of the labor rights and the society defending the rights. By creating stronger communities within work place the individual workers have more strength to defend their rights as employees. When they get their voices heard and the human rights violations seen there is always a possibility for the governments and states to use their rules and legislations to force the companies and employers to treat their employees – such as housekeepers – one day in a more respectful and legal way.
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