The Political Economy of Care
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The Political Economy of Care. Three Questions. What is care work and why is it important? Where do motivations for care come from and what are their consequences? How are motivations for care linked to changing social norms of masculinity and femininity?.

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Three Questions

What is care work and why is it important?

Where do motivations for care come from and what are their consequences?

How are motivations for care

linked to changing social norms of masculinity and femininity?


The “care sector” of the economy has unique characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Shift from the family to the

market and the state has contradictory consequences for social inequalities and role of the welfare state.

(a.k.a. dilemmas of patriarchal capitalism)

Motivations for a “care movement” --

empowerment of women, fertility decline, but increased pressure on the quality of care services.


What is Care? characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

The American Heritage Dictionary gives two definitions of the verb that seem positive.

1. To be concerned or interested.

2. To provide needed assistance or watchful supervision.

But as a noun, the definitions are rather negative:

1. A burdened state of mind, as that arising from heavy responsibilities; worry.

2. Mental suffering; grief.

To be concerned or interested, it seems, is to assume a burden.

cura

soin

cuida

внимательность

zorg

προσοχή  

obacht


Care characteristics—both for workers and for consumers. Work Defined

Direct care work involves provision of services to another person in a

face-to-face or

hands-on

or first-name relationship

that implies some

emotional connection and concern

for that person’s well being.

Direct care work can be paid or unpaid, market or non-market, male or female.

Recipients often dependents—but sometimes also healthy adults.

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation:

not a dichotomy, but a continuum.


Historical Trends and Stylized Facts characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Increases in women’s labor force participation have been associated with a

decline in time devoted to family care.

Many women have moved into paid provision of care—

teaching, nursing, child

care and elder care.

Non-market work remains quantitatively significant in all the advanced industrial countries.


The Decline of Full-time Homemaking in the U.S., 1870-2000 characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Homemakers Women in Homemakers as

as % of all paid jobs as % of all workers

women workers % of all women workers

1870 70.2% 29.8% 40.1%

1900 64.4 35.6 35.6

1930 59.7 40.3 34.1

1960 56.0 44.0 29.1

1990 32.7 67.3 22.0

2000 29.5 70.5 16.4


The Rise of Professional Care Service characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Industries in the United States

(Employment by Industry as a Percentage of TotalEmployment)

Professional Domestic Agriculture Manufacturing,

Care and Personal Fishing Mechanical, and

Services Services Forestry Construction

1870 -- -- 53.5% 22.7%

1900 4.0% 9.3% 37.6 30.1

1930 7.1 10.7 21.7 31.6

1960 11.9 6.6 9.4 31.4

1990 17.6 4.0 2.8 25.1

1998 19.2 3.4 2.7 22.7


Intrinsic AND extrinsic motivation. characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Love, obligation, reciprocity, and pay—all sources of “utility.”

Norms and preferences of care may be influenced by biology

but they are also socially constructed and at least partially endogenous.

Neither the workers who provide care (the “supply side”) nor the consumers who

receive care (the “demand” side) behave in ways that fit the traditional model of

neoclassical economic theory.


Worker Motivation characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Consumers


Market Failures characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

limited consumer sovereignty

(information problems, agency problems, monitoring problems)

social preferences (altruism and obligation)

endogenous preferences (emotional stickiness, cultural construction)

coordination problems

externalities


“Care” Promises Quality characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.


Intrinsically Motivated Care: characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Benefits for “Consumers”

a.k.a. children, elderly, patients, students…

General:

High quality—long-term commitments and reduced need for monitoring;

“incentive-enhancing preferences”

Low cost—resulting from “compensating differentials”

Specific:

In short run, inelastic response to risk of poverty, stress, pay reduction, speed-up, deterioration in working conditions, or reduction in “payoff”


Prisoners of Love characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

“I didn’t expect this and I didn’t want it, but my heart’s involved now.”

(A grandmother, describing her care for her grandson.)

“I love them. That’s all, you can’t help it.”

(Paid caregivers, describing their feelings toward many of their clients.)

The results rather more complicated than a “compensating differential.”

Alone from night to night you’ll find me

Too weak to break the chains that bind me,

I need no shackles to remind me,

I’m just a prisoner of love

lyrics by Leo Robin, 1931


Liabilities for Workers characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

(primarily women)

General:

“Costly” preferences,

reduced bargaining power (hold-up)

Specific:

Increases likelihood of paternal abandonment and patriarchal control.

Contributes to “double-day” for women

working for pay.

Encourages occupational segregation and “pay penalty” in jobs that require nurturance


Coordination Problem characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Specialization in caregiving is addictive and costly. Difficult to establish

property rights over children or other public goods created by care. Bargains

not enforceable;

Caregivers can anticipate and seek to reduce their vulnerability.


Origins of Patriarchal Systems characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Patriarchal systems use physical force, property rights, and cultural norms to

force women to “overspecialize” in care.


Capitalism Slowly Weakens Patriarchy… characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Wage employment is

based on individual

market work, not

family work

Both wage employment and fertility

decline empower women.

Women

engage in

collective

political action.


but Remains Dependent on It… characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Caring for dependents cannot

be completely shifted to the market.

“Family wage” rules reinforce

traditional gender norms and

encourage breadwinner/homemaker family.

The “welfare state” socializes at least

some of the costs of caring for dependents.

The nation-state takes on many of the

responsibilities of the family: education,

old-age security, and most recently,

explicit subsidies for parents.


Capitalism Represents Itself as Masculine characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.


And the “Nanny State” as Feminine characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Capitalism liberates caregivers but penalizes care.

Women are offered an unpleasant choice: either take on disproportionate responsibilities for care, or don’t commit to caring relationships.

Meanwhile, competition among countries (and regions), as well as firms, create pressures to lower the cost of care.

“Welfare states” are described as soft, weak, and uncompetitive.


Family Policy: A Neoliberal Dilemma characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Capitalist institutions need families but would prefer not to pay for them.

Coordination problem: how to prevent

free-riding?

Note analogy with natural environment:

e.g. capitalism needs a stable climate,

but would prefer not to pay for that either.

International competition

intensifies pressure to offload or externalize costs to non-market sectors.


Outsourcing? characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.


Automation? characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.


Changing Gender Norms characteristics—both for workers and for consumers.

Do you strongly agree, agree,

disagree, or strongly

disagree:

“It is better if the man is the

achiever and the woman takes

care of home and family.”

In 1977, 2/3 of Americans

polled agreed.

In 1998, about 1/3 agreed.


Does Buffy ever babysit? Xena, Warrior Princess, frozen in ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.


Kill Bill ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.2. Motherhood demands accommodation. But, in general, avoiding care responsibilities is easier than…


Norms of ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.

masculinity are changing,

albeit rather slowly.

Will labor market inequalities between

men and women be

replaced by

inequalities between

parents and non-parents?


ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.Marketization”

“Defamilialization”

Increases in women’s labor force participation have been associated with a

decline in time devoted to family care.

Many women have moved into paid provision of care—

teaching, nursing, child

care and elder care.

Movement away from intrinsic toward more extrinsic motivation.

Family care still quite important—what is likely to happen to it in the future?


Economic Implications of Defamilialization ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.

(and/or reduction in relative importance of intrinsic motivation)


Is there a way to reconfigure the care sector? ice for twenty years after her daughter was born.

public provision

shared care in home

empowerment of care workers


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