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The Servants class or domestic worker is a person who works within a residence and performs a variety of household services for an individual or family, from providing cleaning and household maintenance, or cooking, laundry and ironing, or care for children and elderly dependents, and other household errands. The term "domestic service" applies to the equivalent occupational category. In traditional English contexts, such a person was said to be "in service".

Some domestic workers live within their employer's household. In some cases, the contribution and skill of servants whose work encompassed complex management tasks in large households have been highly valued. However, for the most part, domestic work tends to be demanding and is commonly considered to be undervalued, despite often being necessary. Although legislation protecting domestic workers is in place in many countries, it is often not extensively enforced. In many jurisdictions, domestic work is poorly regulated and domestic workers are subject to serious abuses, including slavery.

The so-called "servant problem" in such countries as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada was the problem that middle class families had with cleaning, cooking, and especially entertaining at the level that was socially expected. It was too much work for any one person to do herself, but middle-class families, unlike wealthy families, could not afford to pay the wages necessary to attract and retain skilled household employees.

Technically the servant class is a subset of the working class, but tended to have more limited social mobility and less often included skills that were easily transferrable outside the domestic setting. The upper levels of the servant class might have access to a similar lifestyle as some in the middle class, but were usually more restricted.

Types of servants[]

Legal protections[]

The United Kingdom's Master and Servant Act 1823 was the first of its kind; the terms referred generally to employers and employees. The Act influenced the creation of domestic service laws in other nations, although legislation tended to favour employers. However, before the passing of such Acts servants, and workers in general, had no protection in law. The only real advantage that domestic service provided was the provision of meals, accommodation, and sometimes clothes, in addition to a modest wage. Service was normally an apprentice system with room for advancement through the ranks.

United Kingdom[]

The United Kingdom English country houses and great houses employed many live-in domestic workers with distinctive roles and chain of command. The lord of the manor would hire a butler to oversee the servants. Manorialism dates back to the Middle Ages and slowly died out. The wealthy in the city would also have domestic workers, but fewer and with less distinctive roles. Domestic workers were mostly considered part of the lower class and some middle class.

In modern times, migrant domestic workers have been brought in to the UK to fill the demand for low-cost workers. Human rights groups have added that they are often subject to abuse.

External links[]

Wp icon 16x16 Domestic worker

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