Quotation Sardadvar, Karin. 2021. Outsourced and invisible? Working conditions in the cleaning sector – examples from Austria and Norway. Gender, Work and Organization Conference, Kent (Virtual Conference), Großbritannien, 30.06.-02.07.




Cleaning work has been at the forefront of the jobs being outsourced, both in the public and the private sectors, in many countries (Aguiar/Herod 2006). For this and other reasons, scholars have pointed out the “disconcerting pioneering role” (Gather et al. 2005: 209, my translation) of the cleaning sector with regard to flexibilisation and precarisation. Today, the cleaning sector in Europe has particularly unfavourable employment conditions, including high shares of fixed-term and part-time employment contracts, low wages, high health and safety risks and scarce career prospects (Eurofound 2014). This presentation zooms in to the employment and working conditions in this sector in Europe. In my contribution, I discuss how the widespread outsourcing of cleaning work, as a typical area of low-skill, low-wage, feminized work, contributed to changes in employment and working conditions. At the same time, I show how employment and working conditions are characterized by inequalities within the cleaning sector along gender and ethnicity lines (Sardadvar et al. 2015; Sardadvar 2016; Schürmann 2013; Schroth/Schürmann 2006). As a consequence, women in the Austrian cleaning sector, for example, are overrepresented in the lower paid, more fragmented parts of the sector. This presentation discusses the current characteristics and employment conditions of the commercial cleaning sector with a focus on Austria and Norway and with special attention given to the issue of working times. I argue that the changes to cleaning work that were exacerbated by outsourcing, especially the prevalence of working times in the early morning and late afternoon or evening, contribute to making the work invisible and, in turn, underrecognized. The paper draws on the example of Austria, where much cleaning work has been outsourced and unsocial working times are widespread, and draws comparisons to Norway, where outsourcing has been taking place to a lower extent and at a slower pace.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Paper presented at an academic conference or symposium
Language English
Title Outsourced and invisible? Working conditions in the cleaning sector – examples from Austria and Norway
Event Gender, Work and Organization Conference
Year 2021
Date 30.06.-02.07.
Country United Kingdom
Location Kent (Virtual Conference)


Split shifts and the fragmentation of working lives
Sardadvar, Karin (Details)
Institute for Sociology and Social Research IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5400 Sociology (Details)
5402 General sociology (Details)
5429 Genealogy (Details)
5433 Gender studies (Details)
5904 Ergonomics (Details)
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