Cleaning Up: The Maid Service Industry in Buenos Aires

Patrick Archer buenos aires events, culture, lifestyle

“The woman who cleaned our house was our best friend. We will never forget her and her lovely family.” Those words, found on one Buenos Aires expat’s blog, are a common refrain for many foreigners living and working in Buenos Aires.

The maid or empleada domestica is a key member of most Argentine households, and their work ethic, reliability and affordability make them an important part of the quality of life equation for expats and foreign investors.

The supply and demand variables in the domestic care sector also offer some interesting insight on the changing nature of immigration and labor psychology, writes Julia Raggio in an interesting study for La Nacion. As always, there are both formal (agencies) and informal (word-of-mouth, Craigslist) channels for finding domestic help, but more and more workers today are young women from Paraguay, Peru and the northern provinces of Argentina who prefer more flexible work arrangements (e.g., not being full-time, live-in maids).

While that jibes well with most expat lifestyles, most Argentine families (almost 75%) express a preference for full-time, live-in assistance to help with cooking, cleaning and child care round-the-clock.  Susana Villafane, H.R. Director for Mucamas de Argentina, says, “We have domestic help thanks to the foreign workers.” She adds good treatment, compensation transparency (“blanqueo”) and fair wages are the three keys to a good working relationship. In terms of the latter, she says employers should be willing to pay somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 pesos per month (US$390 – US$515) for the services of a good domestic employee with 2-3 years of experience.