California’s Domestic Workers Face Low Wages, Poor Working Conditions

California’s domestic workers are largely Latina immigrants and, according to new research from UCLA’s Labor Center, the majority are underpaid.

The center examined 2018 government census data and found that 77% of domestic workers in the state work for low wages, earning about half of what other hourly workers make.

“Whether you’re working in home care, whether you’re a nanny doing child care work, or if you’re coming in and house cleaning, across the board, they were just making around $10 an hour,” which is two dollars below California’s minimum wage, said Saba Waheed, the center’s research director.

The majority of the state’s domestic workers are employed in Southern California. One-third work in Los Angeles County alone.

Most domestic workers are labeled as independent contractors and therefore don’t have access to sick time and unemployment — benefits made even more important by COVID-19. Casual attitudes on the part of employers, combined with informal work arrangements, can also contribute to poor working conditions.

The center, which has been surveying the industry and studying government data, found those who hire housekeepers tend to be higher earners. But according to Waheed, those most in need of child and adult homecare are often working families who can’t afford such services.

“We are a state and a country that doesn’t provide enough support in order for the workers to really have the level of income that they should,” said Waheed, “for the kind of work that they’re doing.”

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