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The aim of the PHS-QUALITY project is to study, from a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective, the existing public policies and social partners’ strategies towards personal and household services in ten EU countries, namely, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, France, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the UK. Personal and household services (PHS) cover a range of activities that contribute to the well-being at home of families and individuals, including child care, care for the elderly and persons with disabilities, housework services (such as cleaning, ironing  and gardening), remedial classes, home repairs, etcetera. PHS are provided within the household, mostly by women, mainly working part time, with relatively low skills and often from a migrant background. It is a rapidly growing sector where a large share of the work is done informally, which often negatively affects both the quality of work and the quality of the services. Improving the quality of work in PHS is high on the policy agenda of the EU and the ILO. The aim of the here proposed project is to analyse legislation, public policies, and social partners’ actions/campaigns specifically oriented to protect PHS providers.

Research Question and Objectives

The overall objective of this project is to identify good practices capable of improving both the quality of services and jobs in the sector and ensure greater professionalization of domestic workers. The main research question within the foreseen project is: How can legal regulation, public policy, and social partners’ actions improve job quality and fight informality in the personal and household services sector? The project research team will analyse the practices in 10 member states (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, France, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the UK). These countries are selected because of the different ways in which they have been dealing with the PHS sector, from which a variety of lessons can be learned. 

The project has three main objectives:

  • to provide insight in the experiences of ten EU member States implementing legislation and public policies aimed at improving the social rights of domestic workers, reducing informality in the personal and household services sector and improving the quality of those services. 
  • to analyse the challenges social partners face in improving the working conditions and social rights of the workers in the personal and household services sector through collective bargaining and social dialogue;
  • to discuss these findings with the European social partners at an international conference and to disseminate the findings and lessons to them and other stakeholders around the EU. An additional objective of the action is to promote transnational learning and improve the capacity of these actors to improve the quality of work and services provided in the sector of activity of personal and household services.

The action PHS-QUALITY will address the contribution of industrial relations structures, including social dialogue, to reaching economic and social outcomes in terms of: economic growth and competitiveness; social inclusion and fairness; job creation and job quality within the PHS sector. The project aims to encourage new forms of collaboration through partnership between academia, public/private actors in the labour market, and social partners, as this action is aimed to improving the expertise in national public intervention measures supporting the quality of jobs and services (especially in European and comparative terms); facilitate collective bargaining between social partners in the personal and household services sector; promote the exchange of information and experiences among parties actively involved in industrial relations (companies, workers, social partners, civil organisations, public authorities and research centres); and to promote the development of successful practices helping to fill the gap between supply and demand of personal and household services in the EU.

The PHS-QUALITY project foresees actions aimed at:

  • delivering better insights in how EU Member States deal with a growing informality of the PHS sector and which concrete measures are taken to improve the working conditions and fight the precariousness of domestic workers;
  • deepening expertise and disseminating information on how the various national industrial relations systems address the issue of 'non-regular' or 'non-standard' employment in the PHS sector;
  • assessing the role of personal and household services in the general framework of social, economic and demographic developments, with a focus on social exclusion of the EUROPE 2020 target groups.
  • expanding the collection and use of information on best practices promoting the quality of services and jobs and the professionalization in the PHS sector.  


Regarding the methodology, PHS-QUALITY will use primarily:

  • available statistical data concerning domestic workers;
  • analyses based on desk research on available literature, current legislation, relevant case law at EU level and national level and available texts of collective agreements related to the national case studies on the PHS sector;
  • interviews with representatives from the social partners, workers, and family organisations. 

Project deliveries

The project will produce 10 national reports and policy papers analysing the existing policies and practices in the PHS sector and examining the potential for conciliating the quality and affordability of the services provided with decent working conditions and access to social protection for the workers in the sector. Also, an overview report summarising the conclusions and highlighting best practices will be prepared. The project foresees the organisation of two main events, a mid-term seminar in Amsterdam and a final conference in Brussels where the challenges faced by the sector will be discussed with the stakeholders in the PHS sector (trade unions, employers’ organisations, family organisations, public services, European and international organisations, etc.). 

Research Consortium

The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS-HSI) at the University of Amsterdam is conducting, along with other six research partners, the PHS-quality project dealing with developing employment opportunities, social protection and quality of services in the personal and household services sector. The manager of the project is Professor Maarten Keune. Dr. Nuria Elena Ramos Martín, legal scholar at the Faculty of Law, is the co-coordinator at the project. 

Active partners for this project are the University Carlos III-Madrid, the Middlesex University Higher Education Corporation in the UK, the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, the research institute FAOS at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Twente in the Netherlands and the CELSI in Slovakia. 

The trade unions research institute in the Netherlands, De Burcht, is also supporting this action.

The project team will collaborate with national and international social partners, policy makers, and ONGs aiming to gather and analyse high quality qualitative information on the position of these organizations on matters related to legislation and public intervention measures into the PHS sector.

This project is financed by the European Commission, Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue Programme (project reference VS/2018/0041).

Disclaimer excluding Commission responsibility

This communication related to the action PHS-Quality is made by the beneficiaries and it reflects only the author’s view. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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Prof. dr. M.J. (Maarten) Keune


Dr N. (Niels) Jansen