Image credits: Verne Ho
News Article

Cleaners Combat COVID-19 While Fearing for their Jobs

By Cas Biekmann | Mon, 03/30/2020 - 14:33

Many Mexicans working as janitors do so under precarious conditions. Could COVID-19 prove to be problematic for availability of work or does it provide an opportunity?

Staying at home and avoiding unnecessary contact with others is what health experts from Mexico’s Ministry of Health and the CDC in the US are saying to people. Cleaning could be downscaled in many homes and perhaps owners could refrain from employing house cleaners at the moment. The reality, however, is somewhat different.

El Economista interviewed 42-year-old Alicia Matías, who works at a small store. Although she is quite concerned about the virus, her family depends on her income, so she cannot stay at home. Many janitors and people who provide house cleaning services in Mexico do not have social benefits or public healthcare. This, despite the fact that they are exposed to higher risks than the average worker regarding contagion, says the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. Furthermore, they receive lower salaries. Even those that clean hospitals and are in fact on the front line of the battle against the virus, receive monthly wages of around MX$10,000 (US$412). Regular cleaning staff earns less than half of that, on average. During pandemics such as the one caused by COVID-19, "we see the importance of the cleaning work that thousands of people do in shops, offices, houses and streets," says María del Sol Alamilla, a medicine specialist at La Salle University. Cleaners therefore have hopes that their work will be valued more in the future.

COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the economy and many jobs are already on the line. Yet cleaners have good news from abroad to look up to. In the US, the country with the highest number of infections at the moment, employment in this sector will rise up to 75 percent, as reported by ZipRecruiter.

This is because the virus can easily be removed by deep cleaning. Cleaning service companies are seeing a higher demand. While the virus will undoubtedly enter history books as having caused damage, it provides new opportunities for cleaning crews.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
El Economista, New York Times
Photo by:   Verne Ho
Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst