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Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

On-line version ISSN 1445-7377
Print version ISSN 2079-7222


MARAIS, Christel  and  VAN WYK, Christo. Future directiveness within the South African domestic workers' work-life cycle: Considering exit strategies. Indo-Pac. j. phenomenol. (Online) [online]. 2015, vol.15, n.1, pp.1-14. ISSN 1445-7377.

The pervasiveness of domestic employment in the South African context gives rise to the question as to why women not only enter into, but remain in, such an undervalued work situation, and whether they are ultimately able to exit this sector. Contextualising the sectoral engagement of domestic workers as a transitional work-life cycle characterised by impoverishment, limited alternatives, acceptance of the work context, and future directedness, with individual transition through these phases determined by a unique set of circumstances, female domestic workers' lived experience of their work-life cycle was explored within the framework of an interpretivist research design. Non-probability respondent-driven self-sampling was employed to select 20 participants, most of whom were representative of families with a long history of sectoral involvement, particularly along the female line. Dense, non-numerical data was generated through in-depth interviewing. Inductive data explication was conducted with the aid of MAXQDA. The findings confirmed the existence of an institutionalised culture of engagement within the sector perpetuated from one generation to the next. Hardship and an urgent need for survival leave many with little option but to enter and remain within the sector. Despite negative societal perceptions of the sector, those within it take pride in their work and view their engagement as an enabling tool to better their future prospects and those of their families. Attempts to exit the sector are unsuccessful due, in part, to a limited formal education and skills repertoire. Domestic workers are thus entrapped within a never-ending cycle of sectoral engagement, with the possibility of exiting the sector remaining merely a dream for many.

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