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Department of Geography

Reta Barfuss
Reta Barfuss
PhD candidate

Labour Geography

Room number: Y25 L 64


As part of the Labor Geography research group, I focus on the phenomenon of time-related underemployment in the context of the ongoing flexibilization and precarization of labor. In doing so, I am interested in long-standing but transforming inequalities inscribed in and shaped by the organization of labor and its spatial and temporal specificities.
More generally, I am interested in the critical examination of social, political, and economic inequalities along multiple and intersecting lines of social differentiation at global and local levels and their contestation through various forms of resistance:
  • Labour geography
  • Feminist thought
  • Racial Capitalism
  • Critical border studies
  • Bordering practices
  • Intersectional inequalities

PhD Project

"I Need More Hours." Experiences of Underemployment in Switzerland’s Cleaning Sector

The aim of this PhD project is to shed light on the phenomenon of time-related underemployment and examine its emergence and consequences in the cleaning sector in Switzerland, in particular in cleaning companies. It examines underemployment in cleaning companies against the background of the continuous flexibilization and precarization of labor, that hit the cleaning sector early and hard in the course of neoliberalization (Tschannen 2003): Cleaning has become more and more outsourced, labor time fragmented and the pressure on time and salaries increased. The reason for the particular exposure of the cleaning sector to these processes, according to researchers, is it being a feminized and migrantized sector.

The research project thus aims to take these lines of social differentiation into account in the exploration of the emergence and consequences of underemployment in the cleaning sector. Building on the theoretical approaches of racial capitalism and Black feminist thought, it aims at understanding how lines of social differentiation shape and are shaped through the creation of underemployment. Further, these theoretical lenses invite us to consider this phenomenon in its continuities and ruptures with longstanding precarious forms of labor and inequalities. Racial capitalism should therefore enable a critical perspective that considers the role of race, gender, class and other lines of social differentiation in the creation as well as in the consequences of underemployment.

The empirical part of the project will be based on conducting semi-structured interviews with sector representatives and people in decision-making positions within the companies. However, based on the understanding of experience as partial and situated knowledges, the experiences of cleaning staff affected by underemployment will be at the heart of the examination of underemployment in cleaning companies in Switzerland.