Busy unequal women, awakening governments, male detachment: Care in Latin America today

blogocram, CC BY-NC 2.0

Let us start with the obvious: economically and politically Latin America is a roller coaster: every roughly two decades we can expect the most amazing U-turns.

When it comes to women’s status however, changes have been consistent and persistent across economic cycles and political swings. In 1990, only 32 out of every 100 women had a paid job and by 2010 there were already more women in than outside the labor force – 53 out of every 100 and 70 percent among women of childbearing age. Women have become better educated than men and the region’s fertility has approached a replacement level rate. Dual earner families have become more prominent than the male-breadwinning arrangement, and female-headed families have increased across countries to become, on average, a third of all households. Continue reading

Comprehensive Eldercare: Responsibility, Generosity and Equality

domestic workers
Foto: Carlos Lowry, CC BY-NC 2.0

Since the 1990s in a wide range of western countries new long-term care policies were introduced to publicly support care for the elderly. Demographic changes, increasing labour market participation of women, urbanization and/or financing constraints in prevalent social policy schemes resulted in a gap between increasing care needs, declining family respectively female care provision, and available public funding. Characteristic for the new social policies is their universal orientation, however, mainly on a medium or basic level of public support. The latter means that only a part of the required care provision is publicly covered, while still a wide range of care activities are defined as a part of family – or private responsibility either as providers or at least as financiers. Continue reading

Global Care Gaps, Modernity and Capitalism

Photo: Kin Mun Lee, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Care for one’s self and others are issues moving fast upwards on the societal and sociological agenda in the countries of the Global North. Market fundamentalism, the crisis of finance in 2008, and austerity schemes have been threatening and destroying former standards of working conditions and welfare policies. In these parts of the world the fordist promise of a strong conjunction between economic growth, so-called technological progress, and welfare for all or at least most society members obviously failed. But the issue, in new ways, is emerging in the Global South, particularly in the context of the economies and welfare policies of the middle-income countries. Continue reading

Care and Caring. Can There Be a Theory and Research Agenda?

I’ve just returned from the University of Vienna, where some of the leading European researchers and postgraduate students from a variety of disciplines participated in a fascinating three day ‘ethnographic laboratory’, or research workshop, on ‘Practices of Care’. The workshop was an initiative of Prof Tatjana Thelen and a number of her Vienna colleagues. It was an exciting experience and a great honour to be invited as one of the international experts, along with Professor Joan Tronto from the USA, clearly one of the landmark thinkers in this field.

Photo: Syrian Refugees in Vienna, Josh Zakary. CC BY-NC 2.0

The presentations and discussions included a number of papers on aged care – but extended well beyond that to consider care in its various manifestations: from care of young children and people with disabilities, to care as a communal concern in the villages of Eastern Europe, on the streets of Paris and in the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Continue reading

Care, Gender, Justice: Alternative Care Arrangements in Formal and Informal Sectors

Photo: Vinoth Chandar, CC BY 2.0

The majority of welfare regimes in EU-Countries are organized in such a way that most care-work is managed unpaid in families, mainly by women within the traditional housewife arrangement or, if it´s affordable, outside of the family in nursing homes. However, nursing homes, as an alternative, are often rejected by families because the care often has the reputation of being unbearable and ´unemotional´ care and working conditions. The organization of welfare systems in EU-Countries relies on traditional divisions of labor between the genders and relieves the public sector of demands for care. This kind of care arrangement is increasingly unsustainable because of fundamental societal changes, such as: the decline of family networks and the transformation of the traditional nuclear family, as well as the demographic changes and the emergence of new social risks. These profound societal transformations are increasing the pressure on welfare states to develop viable policies for the regulation of care and care work. Continue reading