The Changing Boundary Between Home and Market: Australian Trends in Outsourcing Domestic Labour

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It is widely believed that domestic outsourcing is booming. Many believe the growth of market services is a response to increasing time pressures arising from new responsibilities in the paid workforce, and to an inflexible sexual division of labour at home. The interpretation of the consequences of the purported growth of domestic outsourcing has been both divided and extreme. Paid domestic services have been declared: (1) a thing of the pre-industrial past; (2) a victim of self-servicing; and (3) the last frontier in the continuing advance of the market in post-industrial society. Consequently, the alleged boom in outsourcing has been viewed either as the resurgence of a pre-modern form of the exploitation of labour (possibly based on race or ethnicity), heralding a deeper and more intractable form of social stratification, or as a future engine of opportunity. Unfortunately all this discussion has run ahead of the facts. Two areas of research are vital: one is the study of the demand for outsourced domestic goods and services, and the other is wide-ranging comparative study of labour relations in the domestic outsourcing industry. This paper addresses the first of these areas. It describes a study of trends in expenditure on domestic outsourcing, drawing on an analysis of Australian Household Expenditure Surveys between 1984 and 1993-94. This information is then interpreted in the light of our knowledge of trend in time use over the same period.
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Bittman, Michael
Meagher, Gabrielle
Matheson, George
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