The notion of care has become a political category . Through it we try to remove from the historical invisibility essential activities for life that mainly occupy women and through which the feminist movement is recognized on a planetary level because “Without us the world does not move . ”
For example, Evelyn Nakano Glenn , in an attempt to account for the multiple dimensions and activities that care includes, differentiates the physical (food, bath, toilet, etc.) from the emotional (listening, speaking, offering comfort, emotional support, etc.), but also services to help people meet their physical and emotional needs (buy food, go for a walk, go to the doctor, etc.), while highlighting the importance of maintaining physical environments in the ones we live in (changing bedding, doing laundry, cleaning the floor, etc.) and relationships and social connections. All of this is cared for.
But beyond that huge list of activities to remove them from invisibility, it is essential to pay attention to the relations of power and inequality from which care is carried out, as well as the cultural meanings that constitute them, since this implies the deprivation of rights in the exercise of citizenship of the people who deal with them.
From the research group that I lead, SEJ 430 “Others. Feminist Perspectives in Social Research ” at the University Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Granada, we have developed different investigations in order to make care work visible.
The “Special Regime for domestic employees” (integrated on 1/1/2012 in the General Social Security Regime) that regulates the use of care at home is nothing but a reflection of the naturalization and feminization of this work and of the reproduction of this from “labor” relationships closer to servitude relationships.
An essential job for life
How can we continue to explain that even though it is an essential job for life, the Spanish State has not yet signed Convention 189 on domestic workers adopted in 2011 by the International Labor Organization (ILO) ?
This aims to “promote decent work for all by achieving the goals set out in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and in the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization” .
But, added to the historical feminization of this sector, since the 90s we have witnessed in Spain a significant occupation of women of a nationality other than the Spanish from the so-called Global South.
According to the EPA, an estimated 600,000 domestic and care workers are around 96% women, of which less than half are affiliated with Social Security. 50% are immigrants and the vast majority of these work in the inmate regime.
Sector workers and pandemic
From the social commitment that guides our research and in the context of the pandemic decreed by the WHO for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which only reminded us of our vulnerability and the need to rethink our model of organization of care, in the In July we embarked on the investigation Care Matters. Gender impact on caregivers of the elderly and dependents in times of Covid-19 .
Among its objectives is to analyze how the measures approved by the corresponding governments aimed at controlling the pandemic affect women workers in the care sector. Above all, those we consider the most unprotected: domestic workers. Starting from attentive listening to some of these workers through in-depth interviews, I will bring some of our analyzes from an anthropological perspective.
For these women, the care of the people they worked with and their self-care had to be extreme since their lives were in it. But not only because of the threat of the virus, but because their daily survival and their salary were at stake, even though they are far from responding to the physical and emotional work overload at a time like the one we are experiencing.
However, as different social organizations have reported , many have lost their jobs, their employers taking advantage of the “withdrawal” formula that contemplates the regulation of this sector or, in other words, the termination of the employment relationship solely by will. express of the contractor.
Along with this, the impossibility of some of their contracts to contribute for unemployment benefit left them completely unprotected. Let us recall some of the requests of these workers to various members of the Government to protect the rights of this group.
But those who have kept their jobs or found them in this sector in the midst of the pandemic have felt, in addition to the work overload, how little they matter to the families who employ them and how little their work is valued, except to be those Disembodied, dehumanized “robots”, always available, that take care of our relatives.
Undoubtedly, we have a great social debt to these women who continue to be in the front row, working in this impenetrable home scenario, often with abusive relationships.