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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Profile of Domestic Workers in California

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Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license

Domestic work is an indispensable part of American life. Domestic workers provide childcare, homecare, and housecleaning services to support families, individuals, older adults, and people with illnesses or disabilities. Essential to the functioning of our economy and a more caring and sustainable future, domestic workers ensure our children, aging grandparents, and loved ones who are managing chronic illnesses or disabilities receive the assistance they need to live healthy and dignified lives. However, this work remains largely excluded from basic employment protections and benefits that can ensure the health and safety of domestic workers.

This report is part of a series of UCLA Labor Center studies that capture the experience of workers and employers in the domestic work sector. This industry lacks the structure common to others, and the resulting absence of regular and predictable practices leads to wide variations in work and pay arrangements. Studies have shown that domestic workers also experience wage theft, health and safety violations, and harassment. A recent survey of domestic workers found workplace risks similar to those of nurses in hospital or cleaners in commercial buildings. Unlike other low-wage industries, domestic work is hidden behind closed doors and lacks government oversight or support. In addition, household employers often do not consider themselves as such or see their homes as workplaces.

Based on our analysis of government data from the most recent 5-year sample (2014– 2018) of the American Community Survey (ACS), this research brief provides a profile of domestic workers in California—who they are, where they live and work, and the economic vulnerabilities they face due to their employment status, low wages, and lack of benefits.

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