“You have to know how to take care of yourself to take care of people,” explains Heidy, a domestic worker who arrived in Spain 17 years ago from Bolivia and who is now looking to professionalize her job. With the same objective, 14 other women take part in this annual course of the Barcelona City Council to train themselves in their work without neglecting themselves: mobilization techniques, methods of support or administration of medication, are, among others, the aspects in which this formal education is centered.
According to data from Barcelona City Council, 65% of women who work in spas consider their health to be fair or poor.
Whole weeks of work without a break, minimal wages and countless responsibilities in their head and on their back: cleaning, cooking, medicine, emotional support and jobs that require strength.
“When I was a trainee, I also had my granddaughter who lived with the user. If I have to look for a third person to take care of her, it is no longer profitable for me to work. It was a very hard and difficult stage to overcome,” says Heidy.
Verification of sector employees
65% rate their own health as fair or poor
Zoila is Dominican and has lived in Spain for 4 years. At present he combines work in four different houses, but he coincides with Heidy in the passion for his work. “What I like the most is when you do something and they receive it so well, they appreciate it a lot. For me they are like my grandmothers that I no longer have, I love it”, confides Zoila while admitting, between two laughs, that she has “the patience cultivated for days with my four children, psychologically I am very well planted and I can support what is well”.
And it is that, although many migrant women see a first job opportunity in housework, the reality is that it is not only the need, but it is very professional and worthy. Workers must have skills of empathy and affection, characteristics that carry a great emotional charge. Heidy states that “helping others was born since she was little, I looked for her”. “Not everyone is worth it, and not everything is worth it,” says Zoila.
Last September, through Royal Decree-Law 16/2022, some improvements were registered for these workers, mostly of foreign origin. The right to strike has been granted to them, dismissals without justification have been prevented and a commission will be set up to register their conditions on the list of occupational diseases. Furthermore, the text also provides for the development of training and accreditation policies for the profession.
On the other hand, this is the first year that Barcelona City Council has organized this course, which offers emotional support and help with professional insertion to students, all women from Latin America. This will open up new horizons for them, such as the possibility of working in residence, in addition to allowing them to master their field of work. “It will also help girls know their rights, that sometimes you get locked up, you get used to what you have and it’s hard to see beyond that,” says Heidy.
Sometimes you lock yourself in, you get used to what you have, and it’s hard to see beyond it”
However, democratizing the world of care is going to be much more complicated due to the complex reality that surrounds it. The latest Labor Force Survey (EPA) calculates that, of a total of 545,700 people employed in Spain in the domestic sector, 31% will continue without protection, that is, they are part of the hiring illegal.
A resident of Barcelona had an intern with relatives for five years. The carer had just arrived in the country and they met her most frequently, by word of mouth. As he was in an irregular situation, they made him an illegal contract which lasted until he was able to regularize his situation after three years of residence. At that time he began to work legally. “In the contract, it appeared that she worked 8 hours a day, but she was in fact an intern. To pay him, we were only two family nuclei, and it was impossible for us to be able to pay him more than what we gave him before (1,500 euros/month)”.
“Now I would think of accepting something in black, life is very expensive”
The situation may change, for example, when the number of people contributing to the employee’s salary increases. Another neighbor says that he has not reconsidered the conclusion of illegal contracts because there are four payers: “And if something happens?”. Of course, he says it’s not easy to find someone with the right papers: “Working in a house in town is very different from working in very small rural areas, where the employee has to give up many more things, here there are none”.
For her part, Heidy says she is aware of the economic difficulties of families: “I worked many times on the black market because they couldn’t pay me more than 700 euros and they needed someone, I did it by altruism.” “I used to throw away, but life has changed, everything is very expensive. Now, I would think about the advisability of accepting a black job”, continues the professional.
Leire, coordinator of the course, does not hesitate to define the care sector as “feminized and devalued”. Cleaning and taking responsibility for family members has long been a task for women, and it has a different impact on how both genders deal with a person’s day-to-day needs.
“Women tend to worry more because they are used to doing everything, taking care of the house, and seeing that there is another person doing it makes her feel bad” , says Zoila, adding that “you have to find a way to show that you are not an intruder, you always have to ask him what he wants and how he wants it, even if it is the meal of the It consists in maintaining their autonomy as much as possible”.
In Barcelona, the town hall ensures that 95% of home helpers or servants are women. In total, 355,000 people are dedicated to this profession, with a strong presence of migrant women and women in precarious situations.
The coordinator emphasizes that “there are more and more men. Society is moving forward and we must recognize the work of many organized women who are dedicated to the care sector. Thanks to them, labor rights and improvements are achieved”. One of them is Zoila who, together with two other women, has just created the cooperative Som Amb Tu. Through it, they offer various assistance services “promoting their autonomy, improving their quality of life and worthy of care work, both for users and caregivers”.
Projects for the care sector
39% of women say that they are the ones who exclusively take care of domestic chores, devoting an average of 25 hours per week to them. In addition, the gender pay gap amounts to 17.5%. In this context, Barcelona City Council has allocated 187 million euros from the municipal budget to treatment policies. The municipal child care service, the VilaVeïna (physical units promoting community care) or the home care service are some of the projects of the Consistory.
The recent implementation of the Care Card stands out, which was presented on September 29 and has already been requested by 2,300 people. It offers free measures and services to caregivers, such as emotional counseling or the possibility of having a trusted person to replace them if necessary.