|The 'Gift' of Help: Domestic Helpers and the Maintenance of Hierarchy in the Household Division of Labour
|Groves, Julian M.
|childcare | domestic helpers | household division of labour | social exchange
Based on in-depth interviews with 24 working couples who hire domestic helpers in Hong Kong, this article examines the hiring of help as an instance of unequal social exchange in which mothers are expected to give up more than fathers. Men view hiring help as a contractual service and as a 'gift' to their wives that allows them to 'buy out' of housework and childcare. Women, however, are likely to supplement their helper's contributions with their own labour since they view hired help as 'less-than-optimal' childcare. They also feel responsible for the supervision and emotional needs of their helpers by treating them as 'part of the family'. By examining the gendered meanings attached to paid domestic help, we show how men and women reproduce the traditional division of labour in the home when hiring domestic helpers, rather than relieving the tensions that working mothers face between paid employment and childcare. © BSA Publications Ltd. 2012.
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