The subcontracting of cleaning work: a case in the casualisation of labour

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Casual labour is defined in this article as labour lacking security of income and employment. It is argued that such labour has remained an integral type of labour organization in modern capitalist economies, and has even been expanding both in advanced and declining sectors. The article studies in detail one specific process of casualisation‐the transition to subcontracting in the case of cleaning work, as it took place in Israel. The major considerations leading to such a transition are specified ‐ the desire to cut costs and to find new sources of labour. The basic differences between subcontracted labour and direct wage labour are discussed, focusing on the intensification of labour, the deterioration of wages and benefits and the obstacles to workers organization. The relation is then examined between subcontracted labour and the composition of the labour force, primarily the displacement of Jewish by Arab women workers and the differentiation which has developed between groups of subcontracted workers on the basis of gender, nationality and citizenship. The role of the state and the labour movement in this process of casualisation is highlighted throughout the discussion. Concluding with some final comments of the more general significance of casual labour for the highly organized Israeli labour force and working class.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-422
Number of pages27
JournalSociological Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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