Skip to main content

Between Family and Market: The Legal Regulation of Household Care Work in Globalizing Economies: Housewivery, Domestic Work, and Sex Work

Final Report Summary - CAREWORKFAMILYMARKET (Between Family and Market: The Legal Regulation of Household Care Work in Globalizing Economies: Housewivery, Domestic Work, and Sex Work)



Summary description of the project objectives:

The project is a study of the continuum between the legal regimes governing the family and the market, through a study of the processes of commodification of the wife’s traditional care responsibilities. It focuses on four paradigmatic cases of women’s care work. The first is the prototype of care work: housewife’s work in the home. The other three are the main market reconfigurations of the prototype: paid domestic work, sex work, and mail ordered brides. Studying the legal regulation of these four cases, the project investigates the nature of the distribution of care along gender and class lines. The project offers a cross section of the legal system, elucidating the combined operation of different areas of law – family, welfare, employment, and immigration law– and their compound influence on markets for paid domestic/sex work.

• Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project

In the past four years I wrote eleven articles that resulted from the project's research, organized one international conference, and am currently in the process of working on a book project.

Three published articles use the distributive framework included in my grant proposal to study markets of care. The three articles utilize the distributive framework to analytically assess the effects of Employment, Welfare, and Immigration Law on markets of care.

A fourth article deals with a new development in the international regulation of markets of care, a 2011 International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on "Decent Work for Domestic Workers".

In addition, I published four articles on various aspects of the regulation of labor migration and care work (three of which were co-authored with Guy Mundlak, and one published independently). Moreover, I published a fifth article in the UCLA Law Review (ranked 7 worldwide) that offers a novel paradigm to human trafficking.

I am currently working towards the completion of two additional articles about the history of sex work in Israel, and the regulation of sex work in Israel the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Finally, I am working on a collaborative book project (with Halley, Kotiswaran and Rebouche) titled Governance Feminism: an Introduction (Minnesota University Press, Forthcoming 2014) which traces the increased power of feminists ideas and activists to shape laws and policies in various fields, including the regulation of sex work and care work. As part of this project I organized a big international conference at the Tel-Aviv faculty in June 2012.

During the reporting period I became a member of the Domestic Workers' Research Network – an international network of researchers, that aims to study the impact of ILO convention 189. In this period I was also a member of an interdisciplinary research group at the Van-Leer Institute, Jerusalem that explores "Israeli Families in the Age of Individualization." I was an active member of the Interdisciplinary Project on Human Trafficking (http://traffickingroundtable.org/.) and a fellow of the Junior Faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences Forum (a selective group in the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities).

In May 2013 I was tenured and became an associate professor.

During the project I presented my research in various conferences at Yale, Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Colorado, Toronto, Tel-Aviv, Hebrew, Oxford, Pampeo-Fabra and other universities, as well as the Israeli Knesset, Ministry of Justice and the ILO.

• Description of the main results achieved so far

My research unravels the impact of globalization on markets of care, and exposes the structural elements that cause female vulnerability in care related work – whether in the home or in the labor market. The project sheds new light on the distributive effects of tools that are designed – at times with the assistance of feminist civil society actors and "femocrats" - to assists exploited workers: whether unionization, anti-trafficking legislation, or abolitionist legislation (in the context of sex work). The project suggests that well-meaning legal reforms may end up back-firing against the vulnerable women they seek to assist, especially when the voices of care workers are not heard in the policy design processes. Finally, the research finds that in order to advance gender equality in relation to care, a holistic assessment of various legal fields is required since reform in one field (e.g. immigration law; employment law) on its own may not be able to correct deep structural inequalities embedded in other fields of human activity.

• The final results and their potential impact and use:

The project provides new tools to understand and design policy to deal with the 'care crisis' in the developed world. It does so by widening our understanding of socio-economic elements that go beyond welfare or employment policy – where these issues are traditionally debated - to include immigration law and labor law and thus enable a more holistic framework in which to conceptualize effective reform. Furthermore, the project reveals the tireless work for feminist - "femocrats" and civil society actors - in promoting social change, and exposes the blidnspots that accompany many feminist and human rights projects and thus hamper their ability to produce the desired outcomes. The research sheds new light on the impact legal structures have not only on the distribution of care work, but also on the distribution of wealth, political power, and the construction of gender images and gendered realities; and consequently leads to novel policy proposals in a gridlocked policy landscape, in local spheres as well as in the awakening international arena.

The project is relevant to legal academics as well as academics from other disciplines such as sociology and gender studies, and to policy makers and civil society actors engaged in reform related to gender, migration, welfare, and the labor market.