Paid domestic labour as precarious work in China

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Hu, Xinying
Paid domestic labour in China revived in the early 1980s after the state began its transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to a socialist market-oriented economy. This dissertation focuses on what happened to gender relations as well as class equality in the wake of the development of private domestic service during this economic transition. Using a socialist feminist framework, the analysis of the current marketization of domestic labour is situated in both the context of global capitalism and the reconfigured nature of patriarchy under neoliberal governance, albeit in a socialist state. The current market-oriented labour system and specifically paid domestic workers’ situation in China can be understood through the inter-related nature of emerging capitalist markets, and historical patriarchal institutions related to both state socialism and the family. This dissertation analyzes the ways that market reforms in China have affected women and the state and their relationship to paid domestic work. The consequences of the marketization of various aspects of domestic life that used to have a more communal character have radically changed social reproduction responsibilities and have put them even more squarely on women in the private sphere. Economic and state policy changes related to social reproduction create both the new supply of and demand for paid domestic work. Based on interviews with domestic workers, their employers, their social advocates, and government officials, this investigation examines the economic and social security of domestic workers and provides information about their precarious work circumstances that could be improved through public policy. China is rapidly reconfiguring its regime of social reproduction and is in a period when new policy needs to be considered: the economic and social securities that had been provided by the pre-reform social reproduction regime are substantially weakened through the marketization of domestic labour.
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