Portuguese housekeepers describe daily ordeal of working for France's upper classes

By Mickaël Correia

France's upper classes look upon housemaids and housekeepers from Portugal as the most honest of domestic staff and as “pearls who they must hold on to at all costs”. Yet behind the walls of these families' sumptuous properties there lurks another world; one in which class differences are very much alive. Mediapart has spoken to Portuguese maids and housekeepers working in the north of France and heard their stories of long hours, unrelenting toil and penny-pinching employers. Mickaël Correia reports.

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Rosa's deeply-lined hands meticulously turn the pages of a spiral-bound notebook. Here, in neat handwriting, she has recorded a lifetime of domestic work. “There you are, I noted it down here: 7.15 euros net an hour. That was my salary as a housekeeper at the end of 2017 after thirty years of work. They declared me [editor's note, to the authorities] but they also paid me quite a lot of hours on the black,” the diminutive 63-year-old told Mediapart*.