Abstract: In many ways, socialist Yugoslavia’s tendency towards socialisation of some family functions and the establishment of a network of social institutions to take over parts of women’s reproductive work was affirmed. One of the tactics used to shift a number of domestic chores from the family to public institutions was the formation and promotion of household assistance services. Relying primarily on archival documentation, the article follows the Yugoslav experiences of building a service network, focusing on activity, user structure, basic problems and weaknesses, and the scope of social organisations for providing services to households in Yugoslavia’s capital. The main focus of the article is on the local practices of Belgrade’s services.

Keywords: socialisation, household assistance service, housework, woman, residential communities


The state narrative about the need to socialise and institutionalise housework, among other things through public services, alluded to communist Yugoslavia’s efforts to relieve working women of domestic chores and unpaid housework. In practice, women’s organisations, particularly the Women’s Anti-Fascist Front, the Union of Women’s Societies, the Conference for the Social Activity of Women, and the Socialist Alliance, were principally involved in household assistance services. However, services have only begun to take root in everyday life. The ineffectiveness of the state-envisioned shift of women’s reproductive labour from the home to public institutions, as well as the failure of household services to promote equality, is indicated by the fact that the prices of their services were often beyond the means of the people for whom they were originally designed. The services were unable to establish themselves as publicly available, even with some funding or other forms of support from the state.