After two years, the paid housework recovered pre-pandemic employment levels, even slightly exceeding the employment figures for March 2020. And although it is still a feminized activity, the hiring of men increased 28.6% and that of women decreased 1.4 percent. Also in this sector the workers are having difficulties to return.

According to the National Occupation and Employment Survey (ENOE), last March there were more than 2.4 million people with a job in domestic work, which represents an increase of 1% compared to the same month in 2020, when it was reported that 2 million 390,192 people were engaged in cleaning homes and caring for people and pets.

As infections have decreased and “the Work market and other activities, such as school, many more women can leave home to work. It is a normal recovery, a pity that normality is also informality”, says Marta Cebollada, academic coordinator in the Department of Political Science of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM).

With the pandemic, thousands of domestic workers were laid off without severance pay. “One in five left the labor market and could not look for a job” due to confinement, or because she had to take care of her own children, explains the author of various investigations on paid domestic work.

The industry, in which nine out of 10 people they are women, she had not been able to get over it. The lowest point was July 2020, when more than 800,000 workers were expelled from the labor market, that is, 33% of the total. Even last February, more than 261,000 still had not returned to that job.

The figures released yesterday by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) reveal that in this couple of years the recovery of jobs was greater for men. In March 2020 there were 187,491 workers in this sector, for the same period this year they added 241,174 people. That is, employer households hired 53,683 more menwhich implies an increase of 28.6% compared to what was observed before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the comparison for women is as follows: in March 2020 there were 2 million 202,701 domestic workers, by March 2022 the ENOE reports 2 million 171,905 people, one decrease of 30,796 female employeesa reduction of 1.4 percent.

Men’s participation in this sector—mostly as drivers, porters, and gardeners—remains marginal, but the salaries they perceive when performing specific activities is almost double. They pay them more than 6,700 pesos a month, on average, and women, 3,400 pesos, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

46% of men receive a bonus, against only 25.7% of women. 25.5% of them have access to vacations with pay, but only 8.2% of domestic workers obtain this employment benefit, says the agency.

Perpetual labor informality

Two years ago, when covid-19 began to infect the labor market, it quickly affected people in the informal sector and those with less schooling. “If you want to put a name to those characteristics, they are the personsdomestic workersa population that was already vulnerable and that the pandemic punished even more by kicking them out of the labor market,” says Marta Cebollada.

“We return to the same point”, unfortunately the return implies the same working conditions as before the crisis: 98% in informality, low wages and discrimination, he says.

The pilot program of affiliation of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) has progressed “very slowly, with barely 2% in three years of implementation. In the face of another crisis like this, they would once again be the first people to leave the labor market.”

In March, the Senate approved a reform to the Social Security Law (LSS) to make it mandatory for domestic workers to join the IMSS. It remains for the Chamber of Deputies to approve the minutes.

However, “the mere change in the law is not going to be projected in an increase in affiliation, it is not enough. Public policy and budget measures are needed to spread the legal changes, the advantages of insurance for employers and workers, the way to carry out the procedure and even create tax incentives to promote it, says the researcher.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to formalize the domestic workers. Social security is not only medical care, it is savings for retirement, social benefits and compensation for accidents, among other rights”.



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