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Intersectional Contract. Understanding the Intersection of Gender and “Race”/Ethnic Inequalities in the Care-Domestic Sector in the UK by Means of Racial-Sexual Contract Analysis

Final Report Summary - INTERSECTINGCONTRACT (Intersectional Contract. Understanding the Intersection of Gender and “Race”/Ethnic Inequalities in the Care-Domestic Sector in the UK by Means of Racial-Sexual Contract Analysis)

INTERSECTING CONTRACT - Project Number 300616
Period covered: 1 October 2013 – 12 November 2015
This study contributed to the debate on gender and “race”/ethnicity biases in the care-domestic labour sector in the UK by using the theoretical frame of intersectionality theory and by focusing upon the overlooked role of domestic and care placement agencies. In fact it was of the greatest importance to consider the combined impact of gender and “racial”/ethnic factors on a labour market that has witnessed dramatic growth in the participation of women of ethnic minority background across all EU Member States in recent years. Within this context, the case of domestic placement agencies that function as middle men between families and migrant domestic workers in the city of London revealed to be of great importance to explore the growth of the phenomenon as well as the reactions it has elicited at the policy level.

The general research objective of this project was thus to assess the role of gender and “race”/ethnicity biases in the care and domestic sector and to assess how care and domestic placement agencies are changing the culture of care and housekeeping in the UK, particularly in the city of London. From a theoretical point of view, the project aimed to assess how intersectionality theory can be applied to the empirical study of ethnic/gender based discrimination in the care and domestic sector. In the aim to articulate this general objective, the project pursued three interrelated specific research objectives: 1) the impact of considerations related to gender and “race”/ethnicity biases in the recruitment of care and domestic workers by private agencies and households. The project analysed in what ways care and domestic agencies and private households/employers apply gender and race/ethnic based stereotyping in the process of workers’ selection. 2) The way care and domestic recruitment agencies function and impact upon the culture of care and housekeeping. This sheds light on how care and domestic work are becoming commodifie. 3) The role of state policies and welfare changes in increasing or decreasing the number of migrant women in the sector. For instance, the project has taken into account how the introduction of the DWPH (Domestic Workers in a Private Household) visa in 2012 in the UK has led to the de-contractualisation of many domestic workers and to the growth of irregular agreements between employers and employees.

From the point of view of the gathering of qualitative data, the fellow has interviewed 10 agency owners, 10 employers and 10 migrant domestic workers. All interviews have been done in the city of London. The fieldwork was conducted between January and July 2015. The fellow has also spent 9 months doing the literature review at Goldsmiths College and British Library and 5 months gathering and analysing statistical data on care and domestic workers in the UK. During the two years of fellowship, Farris has also been very active in the host institution organising events and activities. Amongst them is the organisation of the international conference ‘Corporate Care. Migrant Labour and the Care Industry in Times of Crisis and Austerity’, which took place in October 2015 and attracted prominent scholars from different countries. The second part of year 2 of the project was used by the fellow also to prepare publications based on the results of the project. Two of these publications are articles for peer-reviewed journals. The first is entitled “Social Reproduction, Surplus Populations and the Role of Migrant Women” and it has been published in November 2015 in ViewpointMagazine in a special issue on Social Reproduction. The second is entitled “Corporate Care in Times of Crisis and Austerity” and has been submitted to the journal Feministische Studien as part of a special issue co-edited by the fellow. During the second year, Farris also worked on the publication of a special issue on the themes of the project. In collaboration with Sabrina Marchetti (EUI) with whom the fellow established important working relationships – the Special Issue is entitled ‘Corporate Care’ and explores how the growing presence of corporations in the care industry in a period of crisis and austerity affects the sector; in what ways the profitability of care impact upon our understanding of social reproduction theory; and how care and domestic placement agencies change conceptions and cultures of care and domestic work.
In terms of presentation of results to various audiences, Farris has presented the findings of the project on several occasions, across Europe and in Australia. She has given presentations at the Penser L’emancipation conference in Paris, at the Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow, at the university of Sydney in Australia, at the University of Amsterdam and at the conference against trafficking in Vienna. Another very important opportunity for the fellow to discuss this project has been the visiting mission at the University of Sydney, Australia. The fellow has been hosted by the Sociology Department under the supervision of Prof. Nicola Piper from the 20th of May to the 20th of June 2015.This mission served both the purposes of dissemination of research results and of further enhancing the training experience.

The results of the research project INTERSECTIONAL CONTRACT have been extremely positive. In particular, it is important to emphasise the following achievements and their impact:
- A total of 30 in-depth interviews were conducted during the fellowship. These include 10 interviews with care and domestic recruitment agencies’ owners/managers who are notoriously difficult to interview. It is also worth emphasising that this was the first study in the UK to focus upon care and domestic recruitment agencies, thereby opening up important lines of future research for scholars who work in the field of care and migration.

- the INTERSECTING CONTRACT project’s results have impacted not only upon scholars in the field of care and migration – as it can be testified through the publication of peer-reviewed articles and the participation of prominent international scholars at the project’s conference - but also amongst practioners and activists. For instance, Farris was invited as keynote speaker at the conference “Joining Forces against Human Trafficking”, organized by the Task Force on Combating Human Trafficking on the occasion of the EU-Anti-Trafficking Day in Vienna (October 18). The fellow also published outreaching pieces in venues such as OpenDemocracy and given radio interviews.

- During year 1 of the project the fellow organised a seminar on intersectionality theory, which attracted both academics and post-graduate students from both Goldsmiths College and other universities in London. During year 2 the fellow organised a successful conference on themes of the project that has been not only widely attended, but also enriched by the contributions of prominent scholars from several European countries as well as from the Middle-East and Canada. In this context, the fellow had the chance to develop collaborations with important academics who work in the field of care and migration. The conference was also widely advertised through the creation of a dedicated webpage, which attracted numerous views: