Domestic Care Work Triangle: Rethinking the Nature and Gender Relations of the Domestic Care Work in China

The magnitude of 15 million domestic care workers in China today has attracted great attention from the government, researchers and other social actors. However, existing researches mainly focus on the different types of relationship between domestic care workers and employers as a unity. Few of them have noticed the gender difference between male employer and female employer in the families. This research is to fill this gap by exploring the different interactions between domestic care workers and male employers and female employers. The interaction is framed into a 'Domestic care work triangle' theoretical model. Four aspects of interaction including interaction depth, frequency, content, length are analyzed in each pair of the interaction. The research has adopted a qualitative method and collected in-depth interview data from 30 domestic care workers who are working in families with employers having various social-economic backgrounds in Beijing. The findings suggest that the interactions between domestic care workers and male employer and female employer are quite different in each of the four analytical aspects. The paper finds that though female employers are free from dirty house work including washing and cooking etc, they are still involved in other domestic work to beautify themselves to be a good wife and good mother. The nature of domestic work in this research is then reconceptualized to include both 'dirty' house work and 'beautifying' work. The research also finds that kids in the families are buffers to alleviate the conflicts between domestic care workers and employers. The research has gender implications as it finds that the ignorance of male and female employers has blurred the gender inequality in domestic work field. The research is also expected to contribute to the area of social policy on family issues.