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July/August edition

Letters to the editor

Two readers have responded to our focus secion on “Women at work”.

Second class persons

Focus D+C/E+Z 2011/7–8, p. 284 f., Interview with Wanda Steindorf: Wealthy maids

Since I know the situation fairly well, I am disappointed in the interview about Brazilian domestic helpers, the empregadas. A Brazilian TV documentary recently compared their fate to slavery in a modern form. Of course, they do not have to work, but if they don’t, in the worst cases, they’ll face starvation. While there have been some improvements like the legal minimum wage, these reforms are often not enforced. In any case, the empregadas are considered second class persons. Apartment blocks are still being built with a separate elevator for them, even though they are involved in their employers’ private affairs like preparing meals or taking care of children. Typically, empregadas live in a tiny room, right next to the kitchen. If they get training at all, it is in skills their employers can use – cooking for instance. Why don’t these people care about empregadas’ general education, including literacy? Unless they learn that, there is no upward mobility. Your interview mentions “well paid” maids. Their income, however, must be compared with that of their employers, who certainly belong to Brazil’s upper class, live in luxury and can even afford to pay for their empregadas’ cooking lessons.

Prof. Dr. Kai Ambos, Göttingen University, and judge at the Provincial Court Göttingen, Germany