Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Domestic Servants

The urban middle-class family without servants is incomplete. Although household servants constitute a major element in the urban informal economic sector, they are rarely analyzed as part of it. The retaining, training, disciplining, or recruiting of domestic help is constantly in progress under the supervision of the wife of the household head. One of the most common sights in Lima is therefore the small printed sign in front of houses reading "Se necesita muchacha" ("girl needed").

There is a constant flow of young highland migrant women to urban areas, and a very large portion of them seek domestic positions on first arriving in Lima. Although census figures were dated, it appeared that about 18 percent of all women employed in metropolitan Lima in 1990 were domestic servants. Domestic service work of course pays poorly, and social and sexual abuse appear often to accompany such employment. Nevertheless, in the absence of other alternatives, migrant women find these jobs temporarily useful in providing "free" housing and a context for learning city life, while also having some opportunity to attend night school to learn a profession, such as tailoring or cosmetology, two of the more popular fields. As domestic work has been increasingly regulated, the term empleada (employee) has begun to replace the use of muchacha as the term of reference. Over the 1960-91 period, households have been obliged to permit servants to attend school and to cover other costs, such as social security.

Data as of September 1992