The Observatory for Family Employment has been producing research, studies and statistics on home employment sector for over 10 years. Its work seeks to highlight the main trends of the sector as well as to grasp its evolution and the job transformations so as to anticipate its possible future evolutions. It published in April 2019 an in-depth study of the sector of home employment in the EU Member States. The study draws a portrait of today’s domestic jobs – and stresses their various pros and cons.
Although the personal and household services sector (PHS) makes up about 7.5 million declared jobs for the year 2017 – topping at an approximated 4% of the total employment volume in the EU, these rates suffer yet from imprecise censing, caused by a lingering massive practice of non-declaration of jobs and thus, of informal (or underground) economy. Another obstacle to an accurate estimation of the employment volume is the lack of uniform recognition of these jobs as economic activities by the different nomenclatures, be it those of the Member States or the European institutions. The Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE), drawn up at the end of the 1980s, includes two categories relating to the two dominant models of home employment in the European Union: direct or intermediate employment by a private employer, and indirect employment through a public or private provider.
The European classification is also detrimental to the sector in that it only takes private employers that do not carry out other economic activity into account – hence mostly ever retaining retired household employers and de facto excluding a fair share of working population.
The dominance of undeclared work in some European countries, especially those in Southern Europe such as Italy or Spain where the rates reach almost 70% finds an opposite scheme in other countries where social security contributions have been lowered for employers or work declaration has been made easier in the course of the last twenty years. Relevant examples include the French Chèque emploi-service introduced in 1994 or the 2001 Belgian Dienstencheque, both of them being service vouchers. In Germany, the Minijobs, put through in 2003 and based upon short term contracts easily declarable and at a lesser cost for employers have helped a substantial share of people to get back onto the labour market after having remained remote from it for awhile – housewives, low-skilled people, long-term unemployed or even students.
The study also compares countries accordingly to their greater or lesser inclusion of the sector into their dedicated public policies. Two main categories seem to emerge in the EU so far – the first one gathering advance social policies that favor both domestic employers and employees, mostly represented in Western and Northern Europe. The second one is rather found in Southern or Eastern Europe where lack or absence of legal definition of the sector with few or no favorable measures to domestic employment.
Other rather social issues were addressed by the Observatory’s comprehensive analysis – with respect to their strong interconnection with the PHS. On the one hand, the global ageing of the EU population as shown by Eurostat demographic data calls for a necessary action in order to anticipate the expected increase of the elderly in need for care services and the overcharge of public health facilities. On the other hand, the undeniable imbalance in favor of women among caregivers show that female workers are often refrained from entering or returning to the labor market and are a hinder to professional and private life balance between men and women.
That is why the Observatory’s study draws up two clearly advocated and exemplified conclusions:
– Striving for a standardization of European and national statistical censing of domestic employment economic activities would automatically reduce undeclared employment rates and thus increase standards of living for a so far unrecognized share of working population still depending on informal economy would provide a clear and overall vision of the number of jobs.
– Obvious consequences of global ageing require developing personal and household services – adding up to the topic of women exiting the labor market in order to taking care of their relatives (children, elderly or disabled).
The European White Paper published by the EFFE precisely proposes, among the ten proposals formulated at the end of the document, measures aimed at remedying the weaknesses identified in the Observatory’s study: the first of these proposals advocates greater visibility of the economic weight and social issues of home-to-home employment, notably through the addition of a notion of “homeworker” in statistical nomenclatures, and the creation of an ad hoc working group in partnership with the various national statistical institutes of the Member States of the European Union as well as with Eurostat. The fourth proposal, on the other hand, focuses on the need for a coordinated and effective fight against undeclared work and the issues of professional integration of women and better care for aging that relate to it.