The first-ever national study of the employment conditions of domestic workers, released today by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, reveals low wages and few benefits for home-help employees, but substantial variations in compensation based on ethnicity, immigration status and whether employees live with their employers.
Interestingly, while white domestic workers generally earned more than their black, Hispanic and Asian counterparts, the study found that African-American nannies earned slightly more — a median of $12.71 an hour — than white ones ($12.55 an hour).
But overall, “Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work,” based on interviews with 2,086 workers in 14 major metropolitan areas to provide an empirically grounded picture of what it means to be a domestic worker in modern America, had somber findings for these workers as a group. Among the surveyed employees, who are excluded from key federal and state labor laws and regulations, researchers uncovered denial of meal and rest breaks, overtime pay and paid vacations or holidays. Also found: multiple accounts of physical and psychological abuse. From the New York Times:
With many domestic workers called on to take care of infants or the elderly during the night, the study found that 25 percent of live-in workers said their responsibilities prevented them from getting at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Most domestic workers do not receive fringe benefits from their employers, the study found. About 65 percent of domestic workers reported that they did not have health insurance of any kind, and just 4 percent said they received coverage through their employer. About 82 percent said they did not receive paid sick days, and only 9 percent said their employers paid into Social Security for them.
“The good thing about the job is you get to meet different people and form a bond with people,” said Barbara Young, who worked as a nanny and caregiver for 17 years in New York and is now a full-time organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “But the big problem was compensation. It’s often very low salary and there are often no benefits.”
Read more at the New York Times.