Working Family Carers in Austria: Tensions Between Institutional Frameworks and Lifeworld Realities

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ingrid MAIRHUBER, Working Life Research Centre (FORBA), Austria
Karin SARDADVAR, Working Life Research Centre (FORBA), Austria
As in Europe in general, about 80% of care for the elderly or for people with disabilities in Austria are provided by unpaid informal family carers. Almost every second of them is in employment; a pattern that is following an upward trend. However, the Austrian long-term care (LTC) regime is still predominately relying on a model based on a not employed female carer and a male breadwinner. The main public care provision, the long-term care benefit, introduced in 1993, builds explicitly on the availability of unpaid or cheap family carers. Regulations put in place in the following decades also encouraged family carers to give up employment in order to provide care. The implementation of a short paid leave and a part-time model for family carers in 2014 is a first attempt to address the combination of paid work and family care, but the (expected) impact is limited.

Meanwhile, demographic trends, changes in family structures, geographic mobility and the increasing female labour market participation (including a longer stay of women in the labour market due to pension reforms) challenge the informal care potential. Hence, this situation leads to mismatches and increasing tensions between the Austrian LTC regime and the actual needs and resources of a growing number of employed family carers.

Against this background, the submitted contribution aims to present findings of an ongoing research project that investigates how employed family carers are trying to bridge the gap between the existing care regime framework and the everyday requirements of care provision. The transdisciplinary project links policy analyses with qualitative empirical case studies of selected care constellations. While focusing on the example of the Austrian case, it addresses a challenge many welfare states are currently facing.