Blog Political Science and Public Administration

Margarita León (IGOP-UAB)


In a very short time-span, Spain has passed from being a country with one of the lowest participation rates of foreigners in the labour force at the beginning of the 90s to become, by 2004, a country with one of the highest presence of foreign born workers in the EU. Net migration in Spain increased from 1.5 in 1993 to 17.6 in 2003, the highest figure for EU-25 for that year (Eurostat 2005: 74). In 2005, the employment category that showed the highest percentage of foreign employees was by far “Households that employ domestic personnel”. The household sector had one of the highest percentages of foreign-born employment. If we consider female foreign-born workers only, 35.5% of all female immigrants were, according to the Spanish Household Census, included in the household sector in 2001(CES 2004: 53). This paper looks at the household sector and recent attempts to change its contractual arrangements.


It is argued that in the context of the strong demand for personal care services –due to rapid population ageing, mass incorporation of women into the labour market and insufficient collective provision of care services- the growth of domestic work is closely related to the overall social organisation of care and specific migration policies that have eased, both implicitly and explicitly, the labour supply of foreign women into Spanish households. In line with ongoing debates in the academic literature as well as in the political sphere, this article seeks to explain the extent to which domestic work can or should be considered as any other job in terms of social and employment rights and obligations.


To that end, it evaluates changes in the regulation of household employment in Spain since the creation of the Special Regime of Household Employees (SRHE) in 1969 until the most recent 2011 reform. Following the recommendations of the ILO Convention for Domestic Workers (2011), this latest reform puts domestic workers on equal footing with other dependent employees. It thus implies a sea change in relation to the discriminatory treatment embedded in previous legal frameworks. The main hindrance to the effective transposition of the norm however remains the strong presence of the informal economy and a dubious political commitment to ensure its application.

The article claim

s that the capacity to regulate the sector is of vital importance to assimilate domestic care work within the formal care sector. Finally, the chapter argues that the study of the conditions of domestic migrant workers in private homes as a new social reality requires a comprehensive anti-discrimination approach that focuses on the intersections of gender, race and class.


See the whole article in:
2013 European Journal of Women's Studies Vol. 22 (2)