n Law, Democracy & Development - Extending the frontiers of employment regulation : the case of domestic employment in South Africa

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



Over recent decades the precarious nature of domestic employment has been analysed in depth from sociological, historical, economic and legal perspectives, both in South Africa and internationally. In the process certain key conclusions have become widely accepted and have served as points of departure for ongoing research. A milestone in South Africa was the analysis by Jacklyn Cock published in 1980, hailed almost 30 years later as a "classic study of power relations between maids and their employers in the Eastern Cape of apartheid South Africa". Describing the different worlds inhabited by white women and their black female servants, the book developed a paradigm of the domestic employment relationship which to a large extent remains valid today: a relationship which is liberating for the (white) employer but exploitative of the (black) employee, even though both are women experiencing the general oppression of women, but in vastly different ways.

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