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International Women’s Day


International Women's Day symbolizes the historic struggle of women to have their conditions equated to those of men. As far as we know, the first 'Women's Day' was organized by the Socialist Party of America in New York City in February 1909. The day was inspired by the labour movement in 1908 when 15,000 female garment workers went on strike in New York City to demand better wages, reduced working hours, and the right to vote.

Since then, we have made significant progress in our fight for equality, securing the right to vote, maternity leave, reproductive rights, and laws against domestic violence, among others. But there is still a long way to go to achieve equality for all women. Despite all the advances made by women in various social fields and changes in society's behaviour, domestic work remains a female responsibility, making women work more and harder than men and further contributing to the gender inequality.

Contrary to our expectations, the increase in women's participation in the formal workforce has not led to radical changes in the division of household tasks. Today, even with a full-time paid job, women often continue to shoulder all or most of the unpaid work they did before.

In the article ‘’The Family as the Locus of Gender, Class and Political Struggle: The Example of Housework ‘’(1981), Heidi Hartmann shows that in the United States, 90 percent of wives claimed to perform 'all or most' of the household chores. Surprisingly, the partners of employed women assisted less with domestic tasks than the partners of housewives, resulting in the working week of employed women being twenty-one hours longer than that of men. European women with a paid job at the time had 33 % less leisure time than their husbands.

Since then, not much has changed. Recent studies conducted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reveal significant levels of global inequality in the time women spend on unpaid care work compared to men. On average, women dedicate 3.3 times more to unpaid care activities. Despite significant variations between countries, this inequality persists even in the most egalitarian nations. For instance, in Iraq, women spend an additional 10.5 weeks per year on unpaid care work compared to men. In Sweden, renowned for its egalitarian policies, this difference is still 1.7 weeks.

According to the Pew Research Center (2014), the additional responsibilities women take on, often referred to as the 'second shift,' contribute significantly to the gender pay gap, 41%  of respondents (employed full-time or part-time) said that being a mother prevented them from advancing in their careers, in contrast to 20% of men who gave the same answer when becoming a father.

Furthermore, if we attribute value to the care/domestic work done voluntarily by women, the gender pay gap is wider. OECD studies  have shown that if the domestic work performed by married women were remunerated, family income in the United States would rise by 60%. In the countries where women spend a disproportionately larger amount of time on unpaid care and in domestic work (compared to men), the gender pay gap (in hourly wages, for paid work) is also bigger.

"In countries where women spend twice as much time as men in caring duties, they earn only 65% of what their male counterparts earn, for the same job (...)This drops to 40% where women are spending five times the amount of time on unpaid care and domestic work (for full-time employees)"[1]

The global economy relies massively on women's volunteer work. In Australia, for example, unpaid Childcare, when assigned a market value, became the largest industry in the country (about 20 % of the Australian economy). In Moldova and Switzerland, the value of unpaid household work represented 44 percent (2014) and 63 percent (2013) of GDP, respectively. In Ecuador and Costa Rica, the proportion of GDP was 15.2 percent (2012) and 15.7 percent (2011) for all unpaid work. [2]

If we think further, we even  realise that not only does our economy rely on unpaid, domestic work, but our capitalist system is based on it. This is what Silvia Federici states in her book “Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation’’. For her,  reproductive labour is the most important kind of work in our capitalist society because it produces workers, and as we know, without workers there aren’t any other forms of work.

The idea behind this is that, even though we may think that we get married, have children, and look after them only because of love, our families are also part of capitalist organisations that reproduce the workforce. Women, by giving birth and caring for their families, create the structure that our system relies on, but are denied a fair share of all the wealth produced from their work.

‘‘We reproduce capacity of work, and different from we think, capacity of work isn't something natural, it's consumed in the labor process; because of that, all of the employers have been benefited from our work, they didn't need to produce , create an infrastructure that allow workers go to a job every day (...) We reproduce the workers to support every work activity and even though we did not get paid for it, we have a part in all the wealth that's been created, we are part of the perpetuation of capitalism." [3]

When domestic work is not performed by mothers and wives, other women, mostly migrants and from lower social classes, are hired as domestic workers. The devaluation of this work is reflected in poor payment, high levels of exploitation and a lack of legal protections. In the United Kingdom, for example, domestic workers aren't protected by many labour regulations; there is no maximum working hours regulation, they are, in some cases, excluded from the right to collective bargaining, and not long ago, they were exempt from the national minimum wage.

There are also other complexities involved in this work. The domestic sphere is not recognized as a workplace, resulting in a high degree of personal dependence on the employer. Additionally, workers do not have intermediary lines of management or colleagues to provide support, further contributing to the precarisation.

Legal norms aren’t often considered by employers, even when they are aware of these laws. In legal disputes, we can observe how employers try to classify domestic workers as au pairs or self-employed to exempt them from basic workers' rights, even when there is clearly an employment relationship. It's also common to see accusations of misconduct to prevent these workers from having access to their rights, and due to isolation in the workplace, it becomes very difficult for workers to argue against the employer.

The Nanny Solidarity Network and the Nannies and Au Pairs Branch of the IWGB have, for the past three years, received hundreds of reports of mistreatment, violation of workers' rights and human rights against domestic workers. Some of us have experienced verbal, physical and emotional abuse in our workplace. For example, being prevented from leaving the house, talking to others, having passports and salaries held by the families, working long hours without a break, dismissal without notice, and, in most circumstances, being paid less than the minimum wage. It’s no wonder why domestic work is universally described as the most repudiated job and one to be taken as a last resort.

As we can see, domestic work is the basis of our society, it makes every other form of work possible. Because of that, this work can no longer be devalued. By fighting for our rights as domestic workers, we are fighting for the emancipation of all women, for the recognition of the reproductive work done by all women for centuries without deserved appreciation.

Join us for a fair world for all women. You can do this in many ways by sharing household chores with partners, valuing the work of your nanny, cleaner or caregiver, promoting our work, donating and becoming a member of our union.

Guidelines if you are hiring a nanny or babysitter:


We know that most of the time child care is a necessity and not all families can afford to pay a nanny or babysitter. However, the costs resulting from the lack of public policies aimed at childcare in this country should not be placed on nannies and babysitters. Doing so devalues the importance of care work for our society. Following the TUC strategy for the care workforce, we recommend a minimum rate of £15 per hour for childcare workers. A more affordable option would be a “nanny share’’ for which we recommend, at a minimum, a rate of £22 per hour.

When you discuss the rate with your nanny, try to be as fair as possible. Besides helping to raise your children, it is through their work that you manage to do yours. It’s not right that your time and work is worth so much more than the person who's helping you succeed. Also, especially with the rise of the cost of living, it is in your best interest that your nanny manages to live comfortably. If they feel valued, manage to stay healthy  and pay their expenses, they will certainly work better.


When booking a babysitter, we know that plans change and unexpected things happen. That's part of life, but it's important to remember that other people have allocated their time to do the job they were booked for. Short notice cancellations cause financial loss, as they could have taken another job if they’d known in time. Be considerate and remember that when contracting a service, it's normal to incur a cancellation fee. We recommend the payment of at least 50% of the fees agreed for late cancellations. However, if you could do so, paying the full amount agreed would be the correct choice.

Live-in Nannies

It's very common that parents think that hiring a live-in nanny is doing them a favour by putting a roof over their heads. However, having a live-in nanny brings many more benefits to the family than for the nannies themselves. It's much more comfortable for the parents to have another adult living in their house than for the nanny to have to live in their employer's house. How would you feel living with your boss or at your workplace? How do you think it is for your nanny? Even though it is legally possible in the UK to deduct accommodation at a maximum of £69.93 per week from their wages, how ethical is it to do so? If it is you who needs or wants a domestic worker to live in your house, is it ethical to reduce accommodation or offer a lower rate for a live-in nanny ?

In many countries like Brazil and Uruguay, it's not only illegal to deduct accommodation from wages, but live-in domestic workers often have a better wage than live out. The International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2014, published a report showing the negative impacts of having a live-in domestic worker. According to the ILO, it makes workers more dependent on the employer and can have long-term impacts on their pension and other contributory social security schemes that are based on income.

In addition, a domestic worker who lives in the home of their employer may well be receiving accommodation, but it also means that in case of an unresolvable dispute, that worker would lose both their job and their shelter. Moreover, domestic workers must earn sufficient amounts of money in order to provide shelter and food for their own families, while saving enough for themselves, and their family’s future.

Late night work

If you require your nanny or babysitter to work until late (after 10 pm), please ensure that they can arrive home safely and offer to pay for a cab service to take them. Lessening their commute back not only makes their work experience better, it shows care for their time and wellbeing.

Childcare platforms

In recent years, online platforms have become a popular tool for parents searching for childcare, with many assuming that these platforms treat their workers fairly. However, some platforms seek to circumvent labour rights and do not provide adequate support to workers.

It is very common for these platforms to deduct a large percentage of workers' wages and encourage them to charge less than the minimum wage in order to secure more work. There have been reports that many workers are being forced to take on extra tasks that are not typically attributed to child care workers. And are also experience pressure to work even when sick since their platform profile can be cancelled if they refuse work. This is how the platform sees it, taking time off from work when ill is not really seen as refusing to work by any reasonable person.

Employment status: self-employed, worker or employee ?

There is confusion regarding the status of some domestic workers. While we might think of nannies and babysitters often as self-employed, the work they do doesn’t really adhere to the definition of self-employment. The self-employed, have a lot of flexibility in their work. They can decide their working hours, they can send someone else to do their work or engage helpers at their own expense, can decide what work to do, how and when to do it,  and where to provide the services.  This does not match the working relationship between nannies and parents, which is why nannies are actually workers. Workers are entitled to labour protections such as holiday pay, protection against unlawful deductions from wages, as well as possible sick pay and maternity pay. A failure to categorise the worker correctly could amount to a breach of employment law or tax fraud.

By: Sara Mendes, Nanny Solidarity Network Organiser


[1]OCED. Unpaid Care Work: The missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labour outcomes. Available in:<>

[2]The Gender Pay Gap Is Wider Than You Thought | Think Global Health.: Available in:<>.

[3] SILVIA FEDERICI | Eles chamam de amor, nós chamamos de trabalho não remunerado. Available in: <>.


We are a non-profit organisation led by and for nannies, and are always looking for people who can help support our community.

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