Female migrants working in Czech householdsOksana Belková | 27. 2. 13
Pavla Redlová from the organisation People in Need describes the main problem of these women:
“The housework, cleaning and babysitting are broad terms that everyone understands differently."
There are several groups of women working in Czech households. Apart from those coming from the former Soviet Union, there are also women from the Philippines. Pavla Redlová, who currently works on a research concerning situation of these women, says that this community is a specific one.
“They live directly in the family they work in. This is called a live-in form. Frequently, I have a feeling that the live-in form is interchanged with the 24-hour service. I think that the majority of those women – at least those I met – are educated. They finished either university or a high school. This shows who can afford to travel to such a distant place as the Czech Republic."
A very nice and smiley lady who I named Grace repeats during our meeting that she will give me an interview only if it helps women from Philippines who work in the Czech Republic. When I asked her what she thinks would help them, she answered:
“It would be nice if they had a place to go to, some building for example. If they had a chance to work and earn some money. They simply need protection in case they escape from their employers. If you could help them to find a new job when they are looking for one. That would really help.”
However, Pavla Redlová added that this topic concerns also the Czech women.
“The most common system is the so called au-pair system which is often presented as an awesome exchange of cultures and a great opportunity to learn language and earn some money, but naturally, it has similar features and similar risks."
As we have already mentioned, the household work is a very broad term. That is why the expert Pavla Redlová recommends having a precisely defined employment contract. Grace from Philippines agrees:
“I strongly recommend having a contract, even though it is not always abided. Especially the newcomers are very vulnerable. But even if you have a contract, it is just a piece of paper. For me, it is just a piece of paper, just as a marriage. I had a contract when I came here and it was not abided. With the next employer I did not have any. We only made an oral arrangement and it was abided. I think I decide instinctively. I believe in God and I think my prayers are very, very effective.”
Natalie from the Western Ukraine was very nervous during the interview; that is why I spoke to her in Russian. The graduate from economy had her own company in Ukraine. When her husband died she got into a complicated family situation and she left her home for work in the Czech Republic. She describes her beginnings in the Czech Republic which were really tough.
“Until 7 a.m. I worked in a bakery and from 10 a.m. I worked as a cleaning lady for Maria. At 8 p.m. I started my shift in the bakery again. I returned home at 7 a.m. and then I went to bed. I do not know how I could manage it.”
Grace's memories of her first employer are not very pleasant. She took care of an old lady for almost ten years.
“At first she did not treat me well. She was suspicious because of my skin colour. After she got to know me, everything was fine. Even the day she was dying she called my name. But at the beginning I could not even take her little granddaughter for a walk. She yelled at me and wanted to see my ID.”
Yet Natalie understands the worries of the Czechs who employ workers in households.
“Their fear is understandable. It is their house where they keep their valuable properties and we have to understand it. They are letting strangers into their houses and they do not know their intentions. One day they come and clean, get paid for it and they might not return the next day.”
Pavla Redlová mentions the most fundamental problem of women who go abroad to work as baby sitters.
“Most difficult and also the saddest part is that these women raise children of strangers while their own children grow up with their sisters or mothers, without them."
The web portal Pracovnicevdomacnosti.cz is dedicated to this issue. Social and legal consultancy for these clients is provided by the Association for Integration and Migration. The number of women working in households is expected to increase in future. One of the reasons is the aging population. The Czech government should not overlook the female migrant workers.
Oksana Belková conducted this interview in the radio programme “Crossings” broadcasted by the Czech Radio on its Radio Wave on 27 February 2013.
Listen to the whole interview here.
This article is one of the migrants’ contributions to the project Migration to the Centre and was created with the cooperation of the People in Need.
The article has been written with support of the Europe for
Citizens Programme of the European Union and the International Visegrad Fund.
The article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be
held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained
Oksana Belková is a student at the Faculty of Humanities at the Charles University in Prague. She is a leader of a multucultural group in NGO working with migrants called InBáze. Her hobbies include reading, art and studying foreign languages.