The political economy of domestic work in France and Sweden in a European perspective
LIEPP Working Paper
Paris : Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies
LIEPP Working Paper : 2
domestic work, services sector, public intervention, comparison
While there is a growing body of literature dealing with the development of migrant domestic work in Western countries, so far there has been very little attention paid to the development of formal domestic services as an economic activity actively structured through public policy. Yet the development of the domestic services sector in Europe is part of a specific political and economic strategy, which has been actively promoted by national governments and national lobby groups, but also by the European Commission since the 1990s, so that it seems warranted to speak of a new ‘political economy of domestic work’. The aim of this paper is to analyse the rationale behind this public intervention in favour of the development of domestic services, to highlight the economic, political and social issues it raises and to see how the policies implemented interact with existing welfare / care systems, employment regimes, and prevailing gender and social norms. This paper does so through an analysis of the policy discourse at the EU level, and a comparison of the policies implemented and their consequences in France and Sweden. The choice of these two countries is guided by the fact that while they represent very contrasted social models, France and Sweden are the two countries that have gone furthest in terms of the support provided to domestic services, and they have done so through the introduction of a same policy instrument, namely a 50 % tax reduction on domestic services. We suggest that the uncovering of similar trends in the logic and modes of public intervention and in the social, economic and political consequences of this public intervention in two strongly contrasted national models could be revealing of more global trends in Europe, linked to more profound transformations of welfare states, of labour markets, and of societies more generally.