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Domestic Labor

  • By: Sharon Ann Musher
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Domestic labor refers to the maintenance of private homes and the care of those living within them. Domestic workers typically perform a wide array of jobs, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry, as well as tending to the sick, elderly, young, and disabled. Such labor draws on emotional resources and physical strength. Engagement in house and caring work, or employment of others to perform it, can denigrate or enhance one's social status. Despite the high cultural and theoretical values placed on the home, cleanliness, and caring for others, domestic labor receives low to no compensation, similar to motherhood.

Since the early 19th century, some feminists activists have moved to either heighten the value attributed to such labors by collectivizing them, advocating government payment for them, ...

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