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Carework and Class

Domestic Workers' Struggle for Equal Rights in Latin America

Merike Blofield

Publication Year: 2012

Labor laws in Latin America have traditionally discriminated against domestic workers, mandating longer legal work hours and lower benefits. While elite resistance to reform has been widespread, during the past twenty years a handful of countries have instituted equal rights. This book examines how domestic workers’ mobilization, strategic alliances, and political windows of opportunity can lead to improved rights even in a region as unequal as Latin America.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. v


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p. vii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

The idea for this book was born during field research for my previous project. I visited the home of an upper-class conservative Catholic political activist in Chile for an interview. We sat in her sloping garden, where she rang a bell for the maid to bring coffee. She elaborated on the difficulties of balancing...


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p. xi

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pp. 1-8

This book is about how class and gender interact with the state. It is about whether and how a group that is multiply disadvantaged gets political attention and recognition in a context of high socioeconomic inequalities. Often colloquially referred to as nannies, maids, and housekeepers...

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1. Domestic Workers in Latin America Today

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pp. 9-38

Paid domestic work is one component within the broader context of care work and gender relations. I compare the politics of care work in advanced industrialized countries with those in Latin America, highlighting the distinct dynamics that deep socioeconomic inequalities have produced. Within this context...

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2. Overcoming Elite Resistance

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pp. 39-67

Demands for equal rights in Latin America today take place in a formally democratic political context and a broadly neoliberal, or market-oriented, economic context (aside from Cuba). On the one hand, democratization has allowed marginalized groups such as women’s and indigenous movements to...

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3. Working in Chronic Informality

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pp. 68-82

For equal rights, legal equality is necessary but not sufficient. The enforcement of laws is just as critical as the laws themselves. Many of the legal rights granted to domestic workers—full or partial—are not respected in practice. Hence, we can identify a double discrimination against domestic workers across...

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4. Bolivia and Costa Rica: Social Mobilization and Reform from the Bottom Up

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pp. 83-105

Bolivia and Costa Rica are in many ways opposites. The former is poor, heterogenenous, and highly unequal, and it has a history of political instability and exclusion. The latter is more developed and more homogeneous, with lower inequalities and a long history of democratic stability and higher respect for...

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5. Uruguay and Chile

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pp. 106-129

Uruguay and Chile are similar in several ways. They have higher levels of economic and human development from a regional perspective. Both have had stable democratic politics since their transitions to democracy (Uruguay in 1985, Chile in 1990), and both have had recent left-wing or center-left governments...

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pp. 130-141

While most states in the region have made significant strides in eliminating discriminatory statutes on women’s rights and human and labor rights in general, equal rights for domestic workers have lagged despite constitutions that enshrine equality. Until recently, all states maintained discriminatory statutes...


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pp. 143-155


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pp. 157-169


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pp. 171-185

E-ISBN-13: 9780271053912
E-ISBN-10: 0271053917
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271053271
Print-ISBN-10: 0271053275

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 784958290
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Carework and Class

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Labor movement -- Latin America -- History -- 21st century.
  • Household employees -- Latin America -- Social conditions.
  • Social classes -- Latin America.
  • Equality -- Latin America.
  • Industrial relations -- Latin America.
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