The foreign women in our family homes

The poor of the world are paying the price for the new economy, according to the anthology «Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy,» edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild (Henry Holt, 2002). The book talks about the «servant culture» which turns millions of women into second-class citizens and threatens to overturn the nucleus of Western society – the family. The writers explain how colonialists used to abstract gold and raw materials from poorer countries, but now we import care and love from women who have to leave their own children behind so they can make a living looking after our children. Ehrenreich claims this means that children are brought up with poor role models. She says that children learn that some people are worth more than others. New hierarchies arise and, since the women who do the cleaning are usually dark-skinned or foreign, racism is wired into the child’s mind at an early age. From this point of view, Ehrenreich believes, paid domestic labor is in some respects more catastrophic than violence in the movies. It encourages a way of thinking where the socks we drop on the floor will mysteriously be washed and, by extension, the pollution that factories create will simply disappear without us having to worry about it. There are 60,000 women working in rich countries either as maids or domestics – poor women from Central and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, who are victims of the new economy. An estimated 80,000-100,000 foreign women work in Greece, a large proportion of them – especially those from the Philippines and Eastern Europe – as live-in domestics. The mass influx of migrants began in the mid-1980s and peaked at the end of the decade and in the early 1990s. In the beginning, they were brought in semi-legally, with seamen’s papers; later their passports were taken from them (the usual practice at that time) and they were sent to work in houses where they had little or no contact with the outside world.