Dissertation Abstracts

Paid Domestic Workers and Public Policy: a sociological study on structural inequalities in Brazil

Author: Ana Teodoro Cleaver, teodorocleaver@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Université Paris Cité, France
Supervisor: Dominique Vidal
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Paid domestic work , Public policy , Intersectionality , Decoloniality
Areas of Research: Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Women in Society


In Brazil, more than 13% of the active female population is engaged in paid domestic work. There are almost 6 million people employed in this socio-professional category, of which 92% are women. Furthermore, 65% of female domestic workers are black. Paid domestic work is marked by the sexual and racial divisions of labor. Without social recognition, the category is located at the base of the social pyramid and concentrates a high deficit of decent work. This dissertation aims to analyze how domestic workers evaluate, from their experience, the Brazilian State's public action in facing endemic poverty and structural inequalities. The sociological dimension of paid domestic work as a social phenomenon in Brazil justifies its choice as an object of study. The omnipresence of paid domestic work is, however, little discussed theoretically and empirically from its relationship with the State. The proposed analysis, based on the trajectories of domestic workers, especially as users and beneficiaries of public policies, intends to enrich the theoretical debate in the light of empirical evidence. In this way, a critical discussion will be made of different theoretical perspectives related to structural inequalities, informed by the decolonial critique, the perspective of black feminism, and the analytical-methodological approach of intersectionality. Methodologically, interviews will be realized with workers from the Federal District and two municipalities in its metropolitan area. The Great Brasília area represents a relevant context for this analysis, as the Brazilian capital concentrates both the highest incomes and the highest inequality rates in the country. Thus, analyzing the living and working conditions of domestic workers in this context is an important contribution to tackling endemic poverty and structural inequalities. Based on mixed research methods, the analysis focused on variables and the analysis focused on cases are combined, promoting dialogue between micro scales, at the level of experience of domestic workers, and macro scales, at the level of national statistics, legislative proposals, and public policies. Three main research strategies are adopted: socio-historical analysis of statistical data and legislative proposals; analysis of life trajectories, through interviews with workers; and, focus groups for collective discussion on the policies considered a priority for their effective social inclusion. The different research strategies seek to respond to two main purposes: the first one aims to understand the context in which the research question is inserted, examining the macro level; and the second one intends to give life to data, diving empirically into domestic workers' experience, analyzing the micro level, in an incarnated perspective. This dissertation is developed under an international double doctorate agreement between the Université Paris Cité (Dr. Dominique Vidal as advisor) and the University of São Paulo (Dr. Márcia Lima as advisor) and is granted funding from the Brazilian federal government. This project has also received support from the French National Research Agency and the French State as part of the Unité de Recherches Migrations et Société URMIS (IRD, UMR 205 et CNRS, UMR 8245) and of the Investissements d’Avenir Program LIEPP (ANR-11-LABX-0091, ANR-11-IDEX-0005-02) and the Université Paris Cité IdEx (ANR-18-IDEX-0001).