Domestic worker

person who works within the scope of a residence

A domestic worker or domestic servant is a person who works within the scope of a residence. A domestic worker is a paid employee. They are free to leave their employment if they wish. Many domestic workers are required by their employer to wear a uniform when in their employer's home.

Domestic workers in the United States in 1914
A servant minds her employer's child

In the Victorian era, Britain had many domestic workers. The butler was the most important one. At meal times he would be like a head waiter. Other male domestic workers were often called "valets". A valet (sometimes said with a silent "t") usually looked after his master’s clothes and comforts, and possibly looked after money matters as well. Female domestic worker were usually maids who cleaned, cooks who prepared the meals, and nannies who looked after the children. Gardeners did the gardening.

In the early 18th century, even some musicians were servants and had to wear livery (uniform). In 1717, when composer Johann Sebastian Bach said he wanted to leave his job, the duke he worked for put him in prison. In the 19th century, there were many domestic workers in Europe and the United States, as well as in other countries. In the early 20th century, new laws were made in Britain to protect domestic workers, and give them more rights.

Today in many parts of the world domestic workers from poorer countries are often employed by people in the richer countries.

To ensure the right of decent work for all kind of domestic workers including migrant workers, International Labour Organization has made Convention No. 189 on domestic workers.


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