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Intersections of class and ethnicity in paid domestic and care work: theoretical development and policy recommendations based on the study of 'majority workers' in Italy and in the USA

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MAJORdom (Intersections of class and ethnicity in paid domestic and care work: theoretical development and policy recommendations based on the study of 'majority workers' in Italy and in the USA)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2020-07-31

This project is about paid domestic and care workers who are citizens, non-migrants and not members of a racial and ethnic minority.
I define domestic work as household based care work which means ‘building and maintaining human infrastructure’ (Duffy, Armenia, Stacey 2015) in domestic settings, like for example, work of nannies, elderly care workers, cleaners and housekeepers.
The project consists of policy and data analysis concerning domestic work in the USA, Italy and EU, and of qualitative inquiry on how the intersection of gender, ethnicity and class affects white non-migrant citizen workers in US American and Italian domestic work sectors. For the first two years of the project (1.08.2018-31.07.2020) the research was carried out in the US and the fellow is affiliated at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell (UML).
The participants in this study are domestic and care workers, experts within the domestic and care work and domestic employers.

Paid domestic and care work as a sector employs at least 67 million people globally (ILO, 2018). Scholarship on this topic is focused on workers with racial minority or migrant backgrounds. Despite ethnicization and racialization of PDCW, workers who are white working-class women citizens continue to perform domestic and care tasks for private households (ILO, 2017). In the two studied countries, USA and Italy, local white citizen workers are an important part of the sector and yet they are under-studied. For the USA M. Duffy’s analysis revealed 49.2% participation of White non-Hispanic women, while in the sub-type of care work characterized by personal contact (nurturance) the ratio was even higher, 57.4% (2005). In a Europe, the employment of white citizens was strengthened by the recent economic crisis (Di Bartolomeo, Marchetti 2016; EPRS 2015). While this category of workers remains under-researched, it also unveils hidden dimensions of inequalities within contemporary societies.

The purpose of the research is to study the paid domestic and care work sector in the United States, particularly in the New England region, with a focus on white non-Hispanic non-Latinx Americans and to understand better the working conditions and everyday life of domestic workers to eventually formulate policy recommendations to address care and domestic sector.
Research on this work sector is focused on workers with racial minority or migrant backgrounds. However, workers who are white non-Hispanic American women continue to perform domestic and care tasks for private households and are understudied. This research is aimed at addressing this gap in the literature.

The research objectives are following:
1. To generate new empirical insights on domestic work,
2. To contribute analytically to the studies of inequality and diversity, and,
3. To formulate policy recommendations to address care and domestic sector.
The American part of the study has been completed (interviews collected, statistical data analysis and policy study finished). I carried out 61 qualitative interviews (60 interviews were envisaged): 43 with workers and 18 with employers and experts. I analyzed the 2017 IPUMS statistical data and studied the Federal and state-level policy initiatives and activism of the organizations of domestic workers.

In the course of the project I had regular in-person and online sessions with the UML supervisor prof. M. Duffy and the principal supervisor prof. S. Marchetti. I was also consulting the project with colleagues from the Department of Sociology, Labor Education Program, Centre for Women and Work as well as colleagues from Ca’ Foscari-based DomEQUAL project. I guest-visit relevant courses taught at the Department of Sociology, in the academic year 2018/2019: Introduction to sociology and Sociology of Race. I guest taught on the Introduction to labor studies in April 2020. I participated in following seminars and workshops:

• meetings and seminars at UML, specifically, regular seminars of the Department of Sociology, and two sections of the Center for Women and Work.
• the Faculty conversation series of workshops at the UML to enhance the quality of academic performance: “Answering the ‘so what?’ question” (26.10.2018).
• "Social and behavioral research" online training CITI Basic, 11/30/2018, which was required as part of ethical clearance application.
• UML seminar on US labor market (“We are all fast-food workers now”) and a seminar “Domestic Workers Building Dignity and Power, Past and Present” at UMass Amherst.

As part of dissemination I presented and discussed my work:
• at the meetings of the Department of Sociology on 07/12/2018 and of Centre for Women and Work at UMass Lowell (14/11/2018, 15/05/2020),
• at a seminar on ethical aspects of my project (18.06.2019) and at a webinar dedicated to my project (4.05.2020) at the Centre of Migration Research at the University in Warsaw, and
• at the webinar organized by the same Centre on Essential workers (July 6 2020).
As well as I presented papers at the following conferences:
• Eastern Sociological Society “Facts and Fictions: Narratives of Inequality and Difference” conference 14-17.03.2019 in Boston;
• The second Global Care work summit 06/10-11/2019, Toronto;
• Annual IMISCOE conference 06/26-28/2019, Malmö;
• American Sociological Association Conference, 10-13-08-2019 New York;
• The ILO Centenary and the Future of Global Worker Rights, October 2019, Washington, D.C.
• The online IMISCOE conference in Rotterdam (2nd of July 2020).

I launched and keep sharing my research on the FB research page As part of my fieldwork, I took part in the NDWA assembly in February 2020 where I established important contacts and was able to learn from the workers-activists.
In public debate, people associate domestic and care work principally with women of color and immigrants, these categories are also most prominent in the workers activism. Abundant evidence about the work conditions and inequalities faced by the people in color on the one hand, and of the migrants, on the other, working in the domestic and care services needs to be supplemented by the study of white citizen workers. Studying white non-Hispanic non-Latinx Americans in the USA and white Italians in Italy in this sector does not only address an important gap in the research and public knowledge but also lays the groundwork for the elaboration of more accurate and efficient policies addressing people in domestic employment, irrespective of their background. So far the project has brought insights into how intersectionality operates on different levels in domestic work activism (see Marchetti et al. forthcoming for the theoretical framework) and about the dimensions of white privilege in household based care work in the US. A comparison between Italy (a Southern European country with a well-grounded tradition of PDCW and high levels of regulation of the sector) and the United States (a Western country of great ethnic diversity but limited regulations on PDCW) is of the greatest interest because in both these countries local white citizen workers account for a substantial portion of PDCW while differing considerably in terms of legal regulations of PDCW, as well as class structure and ethnic composition. I will share the results of the project at an outreach event in collaboration with UML and Centre of Migration Research (Warsaw).
Matahari International Nanny Training Day April 2019
The Fellow at the UML campus
Screenshot of the website of the Domestic Workers United
Screenshot of the website of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
the fellow at the NDWA assembly, February 2020
NDWA assembly February 2020