The Politics of Domestic Work

In many European countries, domestic workers, who clean, cook or care for family members, do not have the same rights as other workers. In the Netherlands, for example, domestic workers can be fired much more easily and are not entitled to any unemployment benefits. How can we explain this precarious legal position of domestic workers? And who defends the rights of this group of workers, in which we also find many undocumented migrants? These are the questions that I try to answer in my current research.

Trade union membership of (undocumented) migrant domestic workers

In the Netherlands, domestic work is often done by migrant workers who sometimes do not have a residence permit. Since 2006, a group of these workers has joined the biggest Dutch trade union FNV (previously AbvaKabo and FNV Bondgenoten). Within the project ‘Migration Law as a Family Matter’ of Sarah van Walsum  †, together with Anja Eleveld, I investigate what the experience has been with 10 years of union membership. Why do domestic workers join the union? What has the union achieved for this group of workers? And in what has it not succeeded?

For the Balance in the New Welfare State

How have five small European countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland) adapted their welfare states to new challenges over the past two decades? And how have policy changes affected societal inequality and the life chances of specific risk groups? This research project on the new balance in the welfare state was conducted jointly by the VU University Amsterdam and the University of Antwerp and financed by the Institute GAK. More information can be found here.

Economic Crisis and the Welfare State 

At the University of Bremen, I worked on a comparative research project on the consequences of economic crisis for the welfare state. In 2013 a monograph will appear with Palgrave Macmillan, titled The Welfare State as Crisis Manager, co-authored with Peter Starke and Alexandra Kaasch. In this book, we show that welfare states have responded very differently to economic shocks and that there is no general demise of the welfare state.

Migrant care work in European welfare regimes

At the European University Institute, I wrote my dissertation on the role of migrant workers in the provision of elderly care, child care and domestic work within different European welfare states. Since there is a growing demand for care services in European welfare states, while available public budgets decrease, there is a demand for cheap care workers. Migrants can fulfil this demand, but this solution often results in inequality in employment conditions as well as in the accessibility of care services.