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The Inequalities and Adversities that Migrant Female Workers Face as Housekeepers

The Inequalities and Adversities that Migrant Female Workers Face as Housekeepers
Author: Lorene Natividad
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Keywords: housekeepers, inequality, discrimination, low-paid, undervalued, and vulnerability.

Undeniably, the tourism workforce is a significant employment generator to migrant workers, which it is important to a specific’s country as it contributes to its economic growth. Specifically, migrant female workers are heavily evident in the tourism workforce, especially as housekeepers. There has been an increase entry of women into the labour market since the 1980s, to reiterate the tourism industry is a mass generator of employment, whether this is clerical, part-time, full-time, indirect or direct employment. Primarily, due to the fact that such occupations are gendered specific, hence the popularity of female labour migration even though, males are stereotyped as the ‘breadwinner’ of the family. On the other hand, more than 88% of women are employed within the housekeeping department which 67% of this are women of colour in 2021 (Puckett, 2021). This is compared to 2016’s statistics of 67% women were employed (Statista, 2016).

The housekeeping department is a diverse culture which ethnic minorities are mostly employed. Therefore, this paper aims to highlight the inequalities that these workers experience, showcasing their vulnerabilities. As this topic in academia is a neglected research especially from a spatial phenomenon, which needs further investigating. A housekeeper as an occupation, signifies an individual’s lack of dignity and status as it is stereotyped as ‘dirty work’ (Hughes, 1972). Primarily, due to the high labour and long working hours, the occupation poses. However, they are considered superior amongst guests as without them, the hotel would not fully function as intended (Hughes, 1972). Despite, being looked down upon, under-paid, and over-exploited by their employers and agencies respectively, they retaliate by exercising their effective and exceptional work ethic. Although, the occupation itself benefits these workers, as they are able to acquire independence, better life with better wages as opposed to their respective origin countries, which this factor ‘pushes’ them to migrate. Yet, this comes with challenges of inequality, overexploitation, harassment as opposed to men.

However, Kofman et al., (2005) claims that women are better with migration as opposed to men, as women typically take on the role of domestic jobs as they are stereotyped to have such occupations and are likely to retaliate against such hardships. Furthermore, they are undervalued as they have ‘menial occupations’ that are low-skilled which are difficult to progress in as opposed to men and non-migrant workers. This further suggests the inequality in the workplace. Despite this being a menial occupation, this is popular amongst female migrant workers as they are left with unwanted occupations as opposed to non-migrant workers between different classes (Livingston, 2021). This further suggests inequality, insecurity and uncomfortableness for them.

However, due to the nature of the work and amount of female migrant workers available to fill such positions, this means it is a very competitive career to get into. However, at the same time, it is also a very unstable career to get into, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 Pandemic, where there were mass job losses due to businesses having to close, in turn meaning there is little to no job security which impacts the daily living of such workers as for some this is their sole source of income. To put this into further context and to echo the points made above, the uncertainty of external factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit have highly impacted these workers, indicating that this sector is extremely vulnerable.

Furthermore, wage gaps between males and non-migrant workers are also evident within this industry, indicating the unfair treatment. As males are stereotyped as having higher employment positions as opposed to women that are stereotyped as having menial occupations of domestic work instead either part-time or full-time employed. The female cohort unfortunately are stereotyped as having menial occupations that are harder to progress as opposed to men. To reiterate, the tourism workforce unfairly mistreats such workers just to get paid below the minimum wage. This is evident in migrants in the America tourism scene as they experience such mistreatment of wages, sickness and holiday entitlement (Hsieh et al., 2017; Oxfam, 2021). This point is further illustrated when the earning potential of a house keeper is compared to the average hourly income of all other employees. To reiterate, housekeepers earn a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as opposed to the average hourly rate of an American employee which is approximately $11.31 (Hsieh et al., 2017; Oxfam, 2021).

This paper argues the experiences of inequalities these workers have experienced, using existing academia to further explain and demonstrate their mistreatment. As employers fail to recognise and acknowledge their employees, as they value customer opinions and satisfaction instead of adopting and taking into account both employee and customer contentment.

Hughes, E.C. (1971) The sociological eye: Selected papers. Transaction publishers.
Kofman, E., Raghuram, P. and Merefield, M. (2005) Gendered Migrations. Livelihoods and Entitlements in European Welfare Regimes.
Available from https://www.ippr.org/files/images/media/files/publication/2011/05/migrationwp6gender_1362.pdf [accessed 01 May 2021].
Oxfam Canada (2021) Tourism’s Dirty Secret: The Exploitation of Hotel Housekeepers. Available from https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/620355/rr-tourisms-dirty-secret-171017-en.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y [accessed 01 May 2021].