Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Domestic Cleaners in the Informal Labour Market: New Working Realities Shaped by the Gig Economy?

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Abstract:  Previous studies show that gig economy‐based work opens up new ways in which inequalities are (re)produced. In this context, it is particularly important to look at female cleaners in private households, where gender inequalities intersect with other axes of disadvantage such as class, migratory experience, or ascribed ethnicity. This spatially and linguistically fragmented group presents challenges for scientific research, which is reflected in insufficient data available to date. The aim of the project GigClean—from which research for this article is drawn—is to address this gap. The guiding research question is: How do domestic cleaners in the informal labour market experience working in the gig economy? The methodological design consists of 15 problem‐centred interviews with platform‐based cleaning labourers in private households in Vienna, who predominantly operate in the informal economy. Our results suggest that undeclared domestic work via online plat‐forms is associated with increased power gaps between workers and clients as well as changing working conditions to the detriment of cleaners. Specifically, three recurring themes could be identified: reserve army mechanisms; lookism, objectification, and sexual harassment; and information asymmetry and control.

Keywords:  digitalisation; domestic cleaning; gender; gig economy; household labour; informal economy; labour market; platform work; social reproduction; Vienna



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© Laura Wiesböck, Julia Radlherr, Mai Linh Angelique Vo. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.