2019 Conference
All Conferences
Contacts & Support
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Female housekeeping in the hospitality industry today

Female housekeeping in the hospitality industry today
Author: Saara Jaakkola
1 Commentries
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.

Reference list:

Baum, T. (2013) International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering and Tourism. Geneva. International Labour Office. Available from: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---gender/documents/publication/wcms_209867.pdf [accessed 3 May 2018].

Hunter Powell, P. and Watson, D. (2006) Service Unseen: The Hotel Room Attendant at Work. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 25(2) 297-312. Available from: https://www-sciencedirect-com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0278431905000435?_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_origin=gateway&_docanchor=&md5=b8429449ccfc9c30159a5f9aeaa92ffb&ccp=y [accessed 2 May 2018].

Onsoyen, L.E., Mykletun, R.J., Steiro, T.J. (2009) Silenced and Invisible: The Work-experience of Room Attendance in Norwegian Hotels. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 9(1) 81-103. Available from: https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.1080/15022250902761462 [accessed 2 May 2018].
Female's position and rights in the hospitality industry
Author: King Cheung
The debate of commitment for the housekeepers in the hospitality industry has raised the attention now. Nowadays, most of the hotels likely to outsourcing a part of the jobs to reduce the operation cost. The issues of this who should take a responsibly to those employees, for example when they were sick due to the poorer working condition and the extra work with unpaid due to the hotel policy. However, the gap between that is still grey, it is hard to define and depend on the cases with a specific situation. Besides, it is clear to say that housekeepers are one of the important party within the hotel industry, those staffs were provided direct service to the customer and influenced customers’ overall satisfaction within the hotel (HM, 2010). The hotel should take a responsibility to the customer to outsource good service quality and high CSR while the cleaning company should take responsibilities to protect employees right and health safety. In addition, NGOs or Union should promote more information to employees, in order to increase their awareness of the workers’ right. The government also need to take a responsibility to investigate and regulate the law policy to protect the different parties, balance the interest between society and economy.

On the other hand, the research by Santero-Sanchez et al. (2015) stated that the gender gap in hospitality industry not only the pay, the job duration and job quality also significantly show the difference between female and male, male in general has better work condition. The hospitality industry, in particular, raised that lots of issues of gender inequality. Female is more outstanding in different industries with different positions now and the female position in the management level become more important these years since the society raised the awareness and concerning about the female equality in the industry. On the other hand, there is an argument of the job nature may not suitable to the female due to the physical work are required, however, most of the attendees conceded that women have positive skills to bring to the supervisor role in housekeeping (Walsh, 2016). The gender is not influenced the work performance, the quality of the work is based on the work’s abilities and skills. The female housekeeper had her own talents to finish the work standard as a man, they desired to had equal pay, benefits and condition in the workplace.

This paper has been interesting to read as it raised an attention to a female worker in the hospitality industry and the concern about gender equality and labour right. The author has provided a good knowledge of the issues of female housekeepers. It is good that there is more discussion about the female position in the industry and how they need to face and protect themselves equality in the workplace. I agreed that government as the promoter should guide and enforce the companies and employers to treat their employees with better workplace environment, I also believed that “one day in a more respectful and legal way” to the industry.

HM (2010). Pros, cons of outsourcing housekeeping | Hotel Management. Hotel Management net. [online]Available at: https://www.hotelmanagement.net/housekeeping/pros-cons-outsourcing-housekeeping [Accessed 14 May 2018].

Santero-Sanchez, R., Segovia-Pérez, M., Castro-Nuñez, B., Figueroa-Domecq, C. and Talón-Ballestero, P. (2015). Gender differences in the hospitality industry: A Job quality index. Tourism Management, 51, pp.234-246.

Walsh, P. (2016). Do we really want more women in housekeeping? | HotelierMiddleEast.com. [online] HotelierMiddleEast.com. Available at: http://www.hoteliermiddleeast.com/26982-do-we-really-want-more-women-in-housekeeping/ [Accessed May 2018].

For further reading:
Baum, T. (2013). International perspectives on women and work in hotels, catering and tourism. [PDF] INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@gender/documents/publication/wcms_209867.pdf [Accessed May 2018].