JCJC SHS 1 - JCJC - SHS 1 - Sociétés, Espaces, Organisations et Marchés

A study of job quality for cleaning occupations – CLEAN

Submission summary

The number of jobs related to cleaning (cleaners, domestic workers, home care workers, housemaids, …) has increased quickly for the last ten years. These occupations represent now a high potential for employment and by now, account for more than 7% of employees. The outsourcing of these activities in the 1990’s has lead to a rising isolation of this part of the labor force. At the same time, the development of a new branch by cleaning services companies, followed by the creation (still in progress) of a personal services sector, have contributed to change not only the characteristics of services relationships that are produced by cleaning activities but also the nature of cleaning occupations. Often considered as low-skilled, these occupations have poor or very poor working and employment conditions (low wages, involontary part-time, non-permanent employment, physical hazards, psychosocial risks, time constraints, ...).

This research project aims at a better understanding of job quality determinants in this range of occupations. The main objective is to explore socio-economic issues created by, or associated with, the development of a cleaning sector, related to the service quality, the levels of prices and productivity, the characteristics of industrial relations,…Considering these occupations as a specific segment of the labour market is the project starting assumption: it implies the characteristics of these jobs deeply rest on social relations intertwining gender and income inequalities. That’s why it seems important to address both job quality and service quality in the cleaning sector organization.

Both elements depend on two main relationships involved in cleaning services production: service relationships between employees and customers, employment relationships between employees and employers. And yet, a great diversity in organizations is observed, that vary according to the place of work (private homes, business premises, places open to the public), to the employer status (private companies, households, public administration, associations) or to the customer status (employed people, dependent persons, companies, communities).

The research is based on three complementary tasks. The first one aims at giving a quantitative overview of the cleaning sector that start by looking at the structure and change in the number and the characteristics of cleaning occupations, and end by a description of the productive fabric structure. The second task explores work organization and working conditions in the sector: what are the levels of wages and how are they set? Do employees manage to balance family responsibilities and work demands? How do employees behave at their workplaces? Is there more absenteeism and turnover than in other sectors? Are these employees less committed to their work or their company than other employees? The third one is devoted to the role played by pricing and market structure in the determination of job quality and service quality: what are the institutional and economic dynamics behind prices set for cleaning services? How do these dynamics contribute to determine jointly the levels of job and service quality?

From a methodological point of view, the research addresses these issues drawing upon empirical and econometric analysis using data from French surveys and both qualitative and quantitative data collected by researchers involved in the project. A survey will be conducted on a sample of persons employed in four occupations (domestic workers, home care workers, persons employed by cleaning services companies, cleaning operatives for public service). It will be completed by interviews of employers (business owners or managers, union representatives) and some companies case studies.

Finally, the study aims at better understanding a relevant segment of the labour market (quantitatively and for social issues) by highlighting the interaction between job quality and service quality.

Project coordinator

Monsieur François-Xavier DEVETTER (Centre lillois d'études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques) – devetter@telecom-lille1.eu

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Clersé UMR 8019 Centre lillois d'études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques

Help of the ANR 140,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2013 - 42 Months

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