Tales of a Domestic Worker: We all want some job security
2018-07-01 15:39:37 -
Opinion
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Photo source: Mariaam Bhatti

By Mariaam Bhatti

I’ve been reviewing my own employability against a job market that has changed to a no-strings-attached kind of work. This thought has been lodged in my head following a conversation on a boat trip one recent evening in Dun Laoghaire. I wished the invitation had waited till the weather turned lovely, but it was still enjoyable.

During the 90-minute cruise from Monkstown to Dalkey and back, four other women and I had sorts of conversations. Towards the end, one lady asked what work I do, and I told her. Just to seem interested, I asked what she does. I was envious to learn she has had the same job for over 20 years.

As I was cycling home, I could not stop wondering how the world of jobs has evolved. People like the woman I met are not the majority. Having an job that lasts for life isn’t the norm anymore for my generation and those behind us.

I imagined what my life would be like with such longterm employment. I would probably have a home to call my own, something like a little house or a piece of land to build one. I could also save for travel to visit all the places I want.

I convinced myself that short-term and fixed-term contracts aren’t a bad thing either. But I certainly would like to be able to financially plan beyond two years. I have always been looking over my shoulder job-wise the whole eight-and-a-half years I’ve lived in Ireland. In fact, this started way back in South Africa, where most of my jobs were fixed-term contracts, mainly because that’s all there was out there. To get a lifetime government job, one would have to have a family member, friend or relative that can help put in a good word to get an interview, even if properly qualified.

Of course, domestic work has evolved over time. Fewer households have domestic workers than in the previous century. Also, the nature of domestic work has changed, particularly in Ireland, to a ‘self-employed’ status. This means very little security, and no payslips or employment contracts for anyone to benefit from the simplest of things like being able to apply for a mortgage.

Having said that, I have been exposed to several short-term employment contracts and to many different jobs and fields of work. I don’t know if I’d prefer to be a specialist in one field like the lady from our boat trip, or have a combined 20 years from probably seven different fields of work, like in my case.

It is never black and white and different situations suit different people, but above all I’d like some security in whatever work I am in, and less stress about where my next cheque will come from. We all want some security, don’t we?

Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.
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