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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
One in 10 employing domestic help
Nanny with pram
Domestic staff include nannies, gardeners and butlers
One in 10 people employ domestic help to do cleaning, cooking or ironing, according to a new report.

The Work Foundation study said 74% of people said they did so because of lack of time, and 83% because they would rather be doing something else.

It said most of the estimated 2m nannies, gardeners, cleaners and butlers are employed on an informal, cash-in-hand basis.

It urged the government to do more to help people make more formal contracts.

The study found more than half of domestic staff were employed through word-of-mouth.

One quarter of carers and cleaners were paid below the minimum wage, according to the report.

Alexandra Jones of the Work Foundation said: "Most domestic relationships are in the informal economy. Whilst this can work well for both sides, we are storing up longer term problems as this sector expands.

Bringing these jobs into the public sphere... should help tackle the stigma that remains attached to these crucial roles
Alexandra Jones
Work Foundation spokeswoman
"Those paid cash-in-hand for household tasks will not be getting National Insurance payments, and are likely to be storing up pension problems - particularly as they are predominantly women, who are already more likely to be in poverty in retirement."

The group, which is an independent non-profit organisation, cautiously welcomed the government's recently announced tax breaks for households employing nannies.

But it said the breaks were unlikely to help very many households because of the low qualifying threshold, and tended to exclude family members who took caring roles.

It urged the government to raise the tax breaks and look again at how to recognise the enormous contribution made by family members.

Ms Jones said: "We need to talk more about the hidden world of housework, as well as childcare and eldercare.

Rather do other things - 83%
Have not got the time - 74%
An affordable perk - 70%
Housework 'waste of time' - 50%
Too tired for chores - 46%
Too big a job - 29%
Prevents arguments - 24%
"Bringing these jobs into the public sphere, and recognising them as valuable contributions to the economy, should help tackle the stigma that remains attached to these crucial roles."

One out of every five people asked said they could not cope with their domestic responsibilities.

This rose to one out of every three for those with children under the age of 16.

The report suggests wealthy households are more likely to have access to domestic help than lower income households.

Those with an income above 70,000 a year are 16 times more likely to employ domestic help than those earning less than 25,000.

While the biggest users of household help are those in full-time self-employment, 29% of whom employ someone to help with their chores.

The Work Foundation conducts research and consultancy work with companies and government departments aimed at improving the quality of working life.


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