chapter  2
42 Pages

THE GEOGRAPHY OF WAGED DOMESTIC LABOUR IN BRITAIN IN THE 1980s

The above comments from two agencies (the first established at the beginning of the 1980s and specialising in household cleaning, and the second founded in 1990 and concentrating on nannies) bear ample testimony to demand for particular categories of waged domestic labour in Britain in the 1980s. However, the agency picture constitutes only one of three elements in the waged domestic labour scene in contemporary Britain. A second is an expanding number of firms specialising in household cleaning services. The third is private hiring: despite the growth of employment agencies and household domestic cleaning services,

individual households continue to advertise directly-in regional and national newspapers and magazines, as well as in Job Centres and informally in, for example, Post Office windows-for particular categories of waged domestic labour. In this chapter we concentrate on demand expressed in and through household advertisements. This focus reflects our belief that such demand constitutes the single biggest element in the overall pattern of demand for waged domestic labour in contemporary Britain, and, as such, the most reliable measure of contemporary demand.3 The analysis in this chapter has a number of components. Firstly, we examine the national pattern of advertised demand over a ten-year period (July 1981 to June 1991) and the pattern within our two case study areas. We then consider spatial variation in advertised demand; at the county scale within England, within London and within our two study areas. Having established these geographies, we move on to make explicit their association with the spatial distribution of the middle classes. We then show the employment of waged domestic labour in contemporary Britain to be associated predominantly with dual career middleclass households and proceed to establish the incidence of employment of waged domestic labour within such households. Finally, we consider the role of space and place in our conceptualisation of waged domestic labour.