Does live-in domestic help reduce unpaid household labor? The paradox of intensive parenting and domestic outsourcing

Adam Ka-Lok Cheung*, Lake Lui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This two-stage mixed-method study pulls the literature of domestic outsourcing and intensive parenting together to investigate the role of employing live-in domestic helpers in the time-use patterns of household labor among working parents in Hong Kong. In the first stage, regression models are used to analyze data from a representative household survey of working parents (N = 791). Regression results show that working parents who hire live-in domestic help spent less time in housework. Yet, the reduction in housework time was partially offset by the managing tasks brought about by the use of live-in help. Working parents with live-in helpers also spent significantly more time on childcare than did working parents without such help. To interpret the regression results, the study draws on qualitative data from in-depth interviews (N = 20) to unpack the meaning of hiring help and its relationship with the notion and practices of parenting. The findings highlight that the use of live-in domestic help is a specialization strategy to strive for perfection in parenting for parents who juggle work, childcare and household chores. By outsourcing household chores and more routinized childcare tasks to the helpers, working parents, especially mothers, can focus on emotional bonding and tasks conducive to the development of their children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-942
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number6
Early online date28 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Childcare
  • domestic outsourcing
  • household labor
  • housework
  • parenting


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