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Care work in Europe: Current understandings and future directions Peter Moss Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education University of London EC funded (Framework 5) 2001 - 2005 6 Partners: Denmark, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and UK Main objective:

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care work in europe current understandings and future directions

Care work in Europe: Current understandings and future directions

Peter Moss

Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education

University of London

the study
EC funded (Framework 5)

2001 - 2005

6 Partners: Denmark, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and UK

Main objective:

To contribute to the development of good quality employment in care work in services that are responsive to needs of changing societies

The Study
specific aims
What is ‘care work’? Analyse and compare understandings of care work across different types of care work and different countries

How is ‘ care work’ structured? Identify different approaches to and models of care work

Why is ‘care work’ women’s work? Examine the causes and consequences of the gendered nature of the care workforce

What directions to take? Identify conditions necessary for the development of good quality employment in care work

Specific aims
why is care work important
As a potential source of good quality employment

As a condition for reconciliation of work and family life increased employment &

gender equality

As the main determinant of quality of care servicesgood quality of life for Europe’s citizens

Why is care work important?
changing context
Changing values : choice, flexibility, decentralisation, privatisation, rights, participation

Changing images : e.g. the child as active subject and citizen

Changing demands: increasing demand for paid care work, increasing recognition that care work is complex and demanding

Changing context
changing context6
Changing supply: care work – unpaid and paid – dependent on women working in poor conditions and subsidizing costs – but this ‘traditional’ supply is decreasing.

The problematique – in this changing context, is the current system sustainable? desirable?

Changing context
three stage study
Mapping the care workforce; surveying use and demand for care services; reviewing literature on quality, job satisfaction and gender issues

Three cross-national case studies of work:

with young children (HU, DK, SP);

with older people (SW, ENG, SP + HU);

with adults with severe disabilities (DK, NE, SW)

Development ofvideo-based method for cross-national study of practice in care work (SOPHOS)

3. Innovative practice (36 examples); dissemination

All reports at

Three stage study
focus of study
Childcare and out-of-school services

Child and youth residential and foster care

Care for adults with disabilities, including eldercare


paid ‘front line’ care work – but recognise importance of relationship with unpaid work

Focus of study
border crossing
Cross national

Cross-sectoral – from 0 to 100

Differences and common ground

Policy and practice, structures and understandings

Multi-method (secondary analysis of LFS→video-based study of practice→in-depth interviews)

Border crossing
main findings what is care work
‘Care work’ is a problematic term and concept, and can be an integral part of a wider field (such as education or pedagogy). Where it exists as a separate field, it is often weakly conceptualised.Main findingsWhat is care work?
main findings what is care work11
Concept often unclear, e.g. many have difficulty defining ‘social care’?

Border between ‘care’ and other fields is blurring, e.g.

Children: (child)care into education, e.g. Spain moving from ‘childcare’ to ‘education for young children’ (guarderia> escuela infantile)

Elderly people: (elder)care into health and housing

Main findingsWhat is ‘care work’?
main findings what is care work12
‘Care’ not understood as a distinct field of policy, practice or employment, e.g.

Denmark, care as inseparable part of pedagogy, holistic approach to working with people…not ‘care work’ but ‘pedagogical work’, not ‘care workers’ but ‘pedagogues’

‘pedagogy’: important theory, practice and profession in Continental Europe…but almost unknown in English-language world

Main findingsWhat is ‘care work?’
main findings how is care work structured
The workforce is three tiered and highly gendered, though with considerable cross-sectoral and cross-national differences in size and quality of employmentMain findingsHow is care work structured?
three tier workforce
High (tertiary level education)

Mainly work with children and young people; only small groups (except Denmark) work with adults. Include teachers and (social) pedagogues

Medium (upper secondary education)

Mainly work with adults (e.g. auxiliary nurse in Sweden), but also ‘childcare’ workers (e.g.nursery workers in Hungary, UK)

Low (secondary education)

Home-based workers; some assistants. Include family day care, home carers, personal assistants

Three tier workforce
profile of the workforce
Highly gendered (% women highest with children and elderly)

Mostly 25-44 (like total workforce) - many have own care responsibilities but no information

Often (not always) low paid

Mostly specialist

Career prospects usually limited – vertically and horizontally

Profile of the workforce
cross sectoral national differences
Highest level in work with children…lowest in work with elderly people

Highest level overall in Denmark, then Sweden…UK at lower end

Largest workforce in Denmark (10%) and Sweden (9%); Netherlands and UK (7-9%, but high % part time); Hungary and Spain (<5%, but low % part time)

danish pedagogue
High level of education

Less gendered – 25% male in some services

Better pay (and other conditions)

Generalist - work with people from 0 to 100; main worker with children, young people and younger adults

Broad career prospects - vertical and horizontal

Danish pedagogue
main findings why is care work women s work
NOT poor pay

BUT understandings of the work as essentially female, replicating the gendered nature of care work in the home

AND gendering of the workforce is reproduced in training and employment practices (which presume female students and workers).

Main findingsWhy is ‘care work’ women’s work?
main findings common requirements and competencies
There are strong commonalities in work across different sectors: whether with children, young people or adults, it is becoming more complex and demanding and requires many common competencies.Main findingsCommon requirements and competencies
commonalities in care work
Fulfilling fundamental physiological needs and needs for protection

Supporting development and/or autonomy

Relating: communication, listening, empathy

Supporting the integrative relationship between the individual, family and friends and wider communities

Networking (with family, community) and teamworking (with other workers and services)

Working with diversity.

Renewing knowledge

Commonalities in care work
common competencies
Communicative (many languages, listen)

Reflective and analytic; make contextualised judgements

Understanding and valuing learning as lifelong process

Personal competencies/experiences + the ability to connect the personal & professional

Working between theory and practice

Working with complexity, diversity, change

Teamworking and networking

Musical and aesthetic

Common competencies
main findings quality of employment
Much care work has features of poor quality employment ( and other employment conditions, levels of education). But reported job satisfaction is high, and much care work has features of good quality employment (e.g. job autonomy). The social status of the work, however, is perceived by workers to be low.Main findingsQuality of employment
good quality employment
Pay, benefits and employment

Education, initial and ongoing (Lifelong learning)

Supportive environment

Health and safety

Career prospects

Decision latitude (autonomy)

Meaningful employment

Social recognition and status

Equal opportunities and non-discrimination

Work and family reconciliation

Good qualityemployment
what directions to take conditions for good quality employment
Strong valuation of all those who are ‘cared for’ (older people as well as children)

Well organised workforce with strong and articulate public voice

Making the work more visible

Development of ‘learning organisations’

What directions to take?Conditions for good quality employment
Recognition that good quality employment needed for sustainability and quality

Strong funding base (e.g. Nordic welfare state – but what other possibilities?)…government requiring high standards

Reconceptualisation of ‘care work’ – ‘care work’ is low quality work

what directions to take move to two tier workforce
Care work requires:

Reflective professional practitioner with tertiary level education working with…

…“other worker” with upper secondary education

What directions to take?Move to two tier workforce
concluding questions
What proportion “professional” and “assistant”? Does the professional supervise and manage or also do ‘front line’ work? Who blows noses?

A generalist workforce educated to work across all/most of the life course or more specialist groups? Nursery worker or lifecourse worker?

Concluding questions
concluding questions30
Is a market/managerial orientation compatible with a a reflective professional adopting a holistic approach and exercising contextualised judgement?

What are the implications for care work of ‘cash-for-care’ policies?

Concluding questions
concluding questions31
Is there an emerging ‘crisis of care’ as women’s socio-economic position changes fundamentally?

What solutions?

Recruit non-employed (welfare to work)

Recruit under-represented groups (e.g. men)

Recruit migrant labour

Revalue work, improve quality

Concluding questions
“Wherever the present standard for any category of job is ‘low qualified women around the age of 30’, there will unmistakably be a strong need to improve the quality of job so it will be acceptable to people with higher educational attainments. And if no improved professionalisation of the job is achieved then it will rapidly end up in a severe labour supply shortage” (Géry Coomans, 2002)
concluding questions33
How to pay for good quality employment?

Per capita GDP: DK= $31600; Ire=$35800;

Tax as % GDP: DK = 49%; Ire=28%

Is ‘care’ a distinct field of policy, practice and employment? Or is ‘care’ part of other fields, e.g. education, pedagogy, health? Does ‘care work’ have an independent future?

Concluding questions