By Magali N. Alloatti

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed forward the discussion on paid and unpaid domestic and care work across the world. In Brazil, the current situation has unveiled long-term social fractures, among them the vulnerability of female domestic workers. It is in the intersection of gender, race, class, and work that we must explore how and in which ways preexisting inequality is being exacerbated. Using secondary quantitative and qualitative data, this presentation explores the complexity of this case. Firstly, I outline some characteristics of domestic work in Brazil: a feminized activity with high rates of informality and vulnerability. Its history and legal regulations are enrooted in Brazil’s history of slavery, social class distinction and gender relations. Secondly, this activity is mostly occupied by Black women from low-income groups. Thus, I explore important aspects of this population: i) they are overrepresented in single-headed families; ii) are the main economic sustain of poor households and the recipients of cash transfer welfare; iii) they perform more care and domestic unpaid work than man; iv) are the main victims of domestic violence and femicide.

Lastly, I examine the consequences of the pandemic and social distancing through the intersection of these dimensions for female domestic workers. Among those working informally, some continue this activity in imposed unfavorable conditions by employers, but most have lost their job. Both groups lack legal and institutional support. Those with formal jobs, continue working as ‘essential workers’ in some major cities of Brazil, exposing themselves and their families. In this scenario, enormous immediate and long-term negative effects are likely to increase intergenerational poverty. This contributes to the need for intersectional approaches to uncover the reproduction of structural inequalities, while justifying new economic and social paradigms. 

Keywords: Brazil, Covid-19, intersectionality, domestic work, inequality, race and gender

Magali N. Alloatti is a postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Education, Hamburg University working on gender, migration, and transnational families. In 2018-2019 conducted postdoctoral studies on gender, migration, and ethnic economy at the UDESC, Brazil. In 2017, lectured on gender, race, ethnicity and migration as a guest professor at the Sociology Department at Bielefeld University. Holds a PhD in Sociology from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, in cooperation with University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a gender advocate (Women Deliver), and her interests are gender, race, intersectionality, migration, and women’s economic empowerment. Her research has been published as book chapter (Advances for Gender Research) and in international scientific journals (International Feminist Journal of Politics). –