Tourism's Dirty Secret: The exploitation of hotel housekeepers

Publication date

17 Oct 2017

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Tourism is booming and generates millions of jobs for women around the world. Yet the hotel industry exemplifies the vast inequality of today’s world. The women who make hotel beds and clean hotel toilets labour long hours for meagre pay, face sexual harassment and intimidation, are exposed daily to toxic chemicals and live in fear of arbitrary dismissal. Meanwhile, the top-earning hotel CEOs can earn more in an hour than some housekeepers do in a year. Such systematic exploitation is not inevitable. The hotel industry, consumers and governments must all be part of the solution to end the economic exploitation of women.

This report examines the working lives of housekeepers in Toronto, Canada, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Phuket, Thailand. In dozens of interviews with hotel housekeepers, representatives of workers’ organizations and hotel managers, Oxfam found five overarching trends common to the three locations: in non-unionized hotels, extremely low wages that are not sufficient to live on; serious health risks and high rates of injury; high rates of sexual harassment; difficulty organizing due to employer resistance and bad management practices; and a lack of adequate child care.