Female household workers in the Mexico City metropolitan area

Date of Completion

January 1990


Anthropology, Cultural|Women's Studies




Domestic service historically in Mexico has been a major employer of women; in 1980, approximately one of every six working women was a private household worker. Private household employment is largely an urban occupation, and the nation's capital, Mexico City, has generated much of the demand for domestic service. As elsewhere in Latin America, most private household workers are young, single female migrants women from rural areas.^ This study examines the history and present conditions of female domestic service in the Mexico City metropolitan area. In so doing, it focuses on various interrelated questions. First, it attempts to establish the role of domestic service in the process of Mexican development; it examines the economic, social, and political significance of this occupation. Secondly, this research addresses the relationship between domestic service and social reproduction. Thirdly, it describes and analyzes female domestic workers' socioeconomic origins and demographic characteristics, as well as their labor and general living conditions. Fourthly, the influence of these combined factors in the configuration of their consciousness and identity is a related area of research. Finally, the different policies and programs concerning domestic service that have been formulated by the government, the Church, and the feminist Left are analyzed in terms of their goals, operation, and importance.^ Given its objectives, this study draws upon historical and anthropological methodologies. Documentary and field research was carried out in the Mexico City area during various phases between 1977 and 1985.^ The findings indicate that female domestic service has declined in relative terms over the twentieth century. Concomitantly, the conditions of domestic service themselves have changed; most notably, there have been transformations in the labor process, a shift towards live-out employment, and a trend towards a more contractual relationship. ^