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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Domestic worker

A domestic worker is someone who works within the employer's household. Domestic workers perform a variety of household services for an individual or a family, from providing care for children and elderly dependents to cleaning and household maintenance, known as housekeeping. Responsibilities may also include cooking, doing laundry and ironing, food shopping and other household errands. Some domestic workers live within the household where they work.

The conditions faced by domestic workers vary widely throughout history and the contemporary world. In the course of twentieth-century movements for labour rights, women's rights and immigrant rights, the conditions faced by domestic workers and the problems specific to their class of employment have come to the fore.



A Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) Chinese ceramic figurine of a lady servant making a respectful gesture with both hands in front, covered in long silk sleeves

Domestic service, or the employment of people for wages in their employer's residence, was sometimes simply called "service". It evolved into a hierarchical system in various countries at various times.

Prior to the labour reforms of the 20th century, servants, and workers in general, had no protection in law. The only real advantage that service provided was the provision of meals and accommodation, and sometimes clothes, in addition to the modest wage. Also, service was an apprentice system; there was room for advancement through the ranks.

In Britain this system peaked towards the close of the Victorian era, perhaps reaching its most complicated and rigidly structured state during the Edwardian period, which reflected the limited social mobility of the time. The equivalent in the United States was the Gilded Age.

Current situation around the world

Aristocrat from Bandoeng with a servant sitting on the floor, Dutch East Indies, 1870s.

Throughout the world, most domestic workers are from the same country in which they work.[citation needed] They may live at home, though they are usually "live-in" domestics, meaning they receive room and board as part of their salaries. Because of the large gap between urban and rural incomes, and the lack of employment opportunities in the countryside, even an ordinary middle class urban family can afford to employ a full-time live-in servant. The majority of domestic workers in China, Mexico, India, and other populous developing countries, are people from the rural areas who are employed by urban families.

'In Guatemala, it is estimated that eight percent of all women work as domestic workers. They hardly have any legal protection. According to Guatemalan labour law, domestic work is “subject neither to a working time statute nor to regulations on the maximum number of working hours in a day”. Legally, domestic helpers are only entitled to ten hours of free time in 24 hours, and one day off per week. But very often, these minimal employment laws are disregarded, and so are basic civil liberties.' [1]

In Brazil, domestic workers must be hired under a registered contract and have most of the rights of any other workers, which includes a minimum wage, remunerated vacations and a remunerated weekly day off. It is not uncommon, however, to hire servants without registering them. Since servants come almost always from the lower, uneducated classes, they are sometimes ignorant of their rights, especially in the rural zone. Nevertheless, domestics employed without a proper contract sometimes sue their employers to get compensation from abuses.[citation needed]

In the United States, domestic workers are excluded from many of the legal protections afforded to other classes of worker, including the provisions of the National Labour Relations Act.[2] Traditionally domestic workers have mostly been women and are likely to be immigrants.[3]

Domestic work and international migration

Many countries import domestic workers from abroad, usually poorer countries, through recruitment agencies and brokers because their own nationals are no longer obliged or inclined to do domestic work. This includes most Middle Eastern countries, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. For most of these countries, the number of domestic workers run into the hundreds of thousands. There are at least one million domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

Major sources of domestic workers include the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia. Taiwan also imports domestic workers from Vietnam and Mongolia. Organizations such as Kalayaan support the growing number of these migrant domestic workers.


Employers may require their domestic workers to wear a uniform or other "domestic workers' clothes" when in their employers' home. The uniform is usually simple, and was even back in the 19th century and 20th century. Female servants would wear long, plain, dark-coloured dresses or a black skirt with a white belt and a white blouse or shirt, and black high-heeled shoes, and male servants and butlers would wear something from a simple suit, down to a white shirt, often with tie, and knickers. In traditional portrayals, the attire of male servants especially is typically more formal and more conservative, than that of those whom they serve. For example, in films of the early 20th century, a butler may appear in a tailcoat, while male family members and guests will appear in ordinary suits. In later portrayals, the employer and guests may wear casual slacks or even jeans, while the servant wears a jacket and tie.


Many domestic workers are live-in domestics. Though they often have their own quarters, their accommodations are not usually as comfortable as those reserved for the family members. In some cases, they sleep in the kitchen or small rooms, such as a box room, sometimes located in the basement or attic.

Notable domestic workers

A poster of an American maid in uniform (ca. 1939).

Real People

Fictional Characters

Different domestic worker jobs

See also


  1. ^ Verfürth, Eva-Maria (N.D.). "Hard work new opportunities". D+C Development and Cooperation No. 09 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  2. ^ See the UN Human Rights Committee's report, "Domestic Workers' Rights in the United States."
  3. ^ Graff, Daniel A. (N.D.). "Domestic Work and Workers". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 

External links

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Master and Servant article)

From BibleWiki

The Pentateuch lays down the rule, in favor of the workman, that "the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning" (Lev 19:13); the preceding words of the same verse, "thou shalt not oppress thy neighbor" (R. V.), are also construed as forbidding the withholding of the workman's hire (B. M. 110). Even more strongly is this idea expressed in Deut 24:15: "In his day thou shalt give him his hire; neither shall the sun go down upon it" (R. V.).

Deut 23:25, which permits one who goes into the vineyard or the cornfield of his neighbor to pluck and eat grapes or ears of corn, though he may not use a vessel for the former nor a sickle for the latter, is by tradition (B. M. vii. 2-8) interpreted as applying only to the workmen who enter into the vineyard or field in the employment of the owner.

Board as Wages.


What the Mishnah says about the rights and duties of workmen ("po'alim") applies mainly to those employed in husbandry; mechanics and carriers are specially treated as such. As in the law of rural leases (see Landlord and Tenant), local custom was the principal standard in dealings with those hired for husbandry. The Mishnah (B. M. vii. 1) says, "He who hires workmen and asks them to work in early morning or in late evening at a place where early morning or late evening work is not customary can not compel them [to do so]. Where the custom is to feed, he must feed; to provide sweets, he must provide [them]—all according to the custom of the province." This applies also to the quality of the board, as R. Simeon ben Gamaliel points out in answer to the saying of R. Johanan ben Mattai, of whom the following is reported: He sent his son to hire laborers, and the son agreed to board them. When he returned to his father, the latter said: "My son, even if you provide for them a meal equal to the best of Solomon's,you have not discharged your obligation to them, for they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Before they begin to work, say to them: 'I shall give you bread and beans.'" Though R. Johanan's view is not correct, it shows the high regard in which even the lowly Israelite, depending on hired labor for his daily bread, was held by the sages (B. M. 83-87).


The passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy on the payment of hired laborers, one giving the entire day and the other the entire night in which to pay, are thus harmonized in the Mishnah (B. M. ix. 11): "He that is hired by the day receives [his wages] at any time in the [following] night; one hired by the night, at any time in the [following] day; one hired by the hour, at any time during the night and day following; one hired by the week, month, year, or week of years, if the time ends in the day, during the remainder of the day; if during the night, he receives it during that night or on the following day." The duty of the hirer to pay promptly is not confined to wages, but extends to payment for the use of cattle or implements (B. M. ix. 12), probably because these were often furnished by the workman, as is the case to-day with the teamster, who sets a price per day for himself and his team.

User of Crop.


In regard to the right to eat grapes or ears of corn in the master's field, the Mishnah (B. M. vii. 2-8) says: "The following eat according to Scripture: He that works on what is affixed to the ground eats at the time of finishing the work; he that works on what is separated from the ground eats before the work is complete [for after that it is subject to tithe] of those things which grow from the earth [which excludes esculent roots]." But those engaged in milking or cheese-making, for instance, do not eat of the produce they are handling. "He whose work is among figs has no right to eat from the grapes, or vice versa; but the man may restrain his appetite until he comes to the finest fruit." All this applies to men at ordinary work; but when the workmen are engaged in bringing back some of the master's lost property, they may eat while going from furrow to furrow, or while returning from the wine- or oil-press, or from what is on a beast of burden which they are unloading. The workman may eat cucumbers, or dates, or the like, irrespective of their market value; but he should be taught not to act greedily and thereby "close the door upon himself." The workman may, for a sum of money, surrender his right to eat, either on his own behalf, or on behalf of his wife, or of his grown children or slaves, but not on behalf of his infant children or infant slaves, or of his beasts.

Those that watch the crops are according to Scripture not permitted to eat, but by custom are, nevertheless, allowed to do so. When one man watches the fields of several owners he may satisfy his hunger from the field of one alone (B. M. 87-93).


Elsewhere (B. M. vi. 1-2) the Mishnah speaks of mechanics ("umanin"), ass-drivers, and teamsters, the hirer being not a master mechanic or master carrier, but a householder ("ba'al ha-bayit") who employs them in his own affairs. If, in the case of the hirer and the mechanic, one has led the other into error, the latter has no remedy beyond a "rebuke" ("tar'umet"). In the Gemara two possible cases of this sort are mentioned. In one the householder sends one workman to employ others, and the workman so sent engages them either at higher wages than authorized (which, of course, does not bind the employer), or at lower wages, which, to their loss, they accept. In the other, after work is begun, the master (or the workmen) refuses to continue. But where an ass-driver or teamster is hired under pressing circumstances, as for a wedding or a funeral, or where workmen are hired to bring in flax from the tanks, or to do similar tasks involving perishable matter, and they refuse to continue (after beginning the work), the hirer may employ others at the cost of the workmen so refusing, to the extent of the whole wage or any part thereof.


When the mechanics who have been employed refuse to continue with the work (after doing part) they are at a disadvantage; the hirer may take out of their wages all the cost of employing others, even though the rate of wages has risen; but if the householder refuses to continue he is at a disadvantage; that is, he must pay them for what they have done plus the whole contract-price for the future work, less what it would cost to hire others, even though the rate of wages has fallen in the interval. In general, whoever recedes from a contract is at a disadvantage (lit. "his hand is the lower"). These rules naturally would apply to husbandry also (B. M. 75a; B. B. 153a).


Whenever a workman in plying his trade has in his charge any chattel or animal of his employer, his liability for loss or damage is measured by that of a "keeper for hire" (B. M. vi. 6). See Bailments.

Bibliography: Maimonides, Yad, Sekirut, ix.; Caro, Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 311-319.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
Facts about Master and ServantRDF feed

Simple English

A servant or domestic worker is someone who works for somebody to help them to run their home. Many servants live in their employers’ homes. A century or more ago all large households in Europe or the United States, as well as other countries, would have had servants. A servant is not the same a slave, because slaves were forced to work for people. A servant is employed by somebody, and therefore servants get paid. They are free to leave their employment if they wish. Many servants are required by their employer to wear a uniform when being in their employer's home.

In large households in Britain there would have been a lot of servants. The butler was the most important one. At meal times he would have been something like a head waiter. Male servants were often called “valets”. A valet (a French word, pronounced with a silent “t”), may have been a personal servant who looked after his master’s clothes and comforts, and possibly looked after money matters as well. Female servants were usually maids who cleaned the house, cooks who prepared the meals and nannies who looked after the children. Gardeners would have done the gardening.

Although servants were not slaves, many of them in history were often treated badly. In the early 20th century new laws were made in Britain to protect servants and give them more rights. In the 18th century even musicians were servants and had to wear livery (uniform). In 1717, when the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach said he wanted to leave his job, the duke he worked for put him in prison.

Today in many parts of the world domestic workers from poorer countries are often employed by people in the richer countries.

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