(De)valuation of household cleaning in the platform economy

Katarzyna Gruszka*, Anna Pillinger, Stefanie Gerold, Hendrik Theine

*Korrespondierende*r Autor*in für diese Arbeit

Publikation: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

252 Downloads (Pure)


The division of paid and unpaid work fostered by the industrial revolution resulted in the devaluation of domestic work, including cleaning. Taking place behind closed doors renders this kind of work largely invisible. The arrival of platforms in this sector provides a novel possibility to explore the (de)valuation of household cleaning. Building on the literature on platform labor, we identify three “sites of valuation” and explore these in the case of the major platform operating in this field in Germany: Helpling. By means of the walkthrough method, we collect data from i) the Helpling webpage and infrastructure; ii) client reviews; and iii) cleaner profiles, and analyze the material with a grounded theory approach. We outline what these sites allow us to see about “good cleaning” or “good cleaners”, thereby unfolding how the infrastructure and the worker-client relationship are co-constructed. We argue that the digital infrastructure of platforms makes aspects of valuation of household cleaning visible, some of which have otherwise been hidden behind closed doors, such as affective labor, trust, or safety. The emerging picture leaves little prospect for digital platforms to foster actual valuation and appreciation of historically devalued domestic work such as cleaning. This would require, for example, improved working conditions – which would entail a fundamentally different business model underlying platform companies and altered regulatory frameworks. We stress here that it would also require active contribution of platforms to redefine the appreciation for and the recognition of cleaning (and other domestic work) in social-cultural terms.
HerausgeberWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2022


ReiheEcological Economic Papers

WU Working Paper Reihe

  • Ecological Economic Papers