Positioning the Professional: New Roles of Paid and Unpaid Workers in Care and Social Services

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:51
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Marianne VAN BOCHOVE, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Discussions on ‘what counts’ as a professional often center either on the essential characteristics of professionals (for instance, Sciulli mentions social esteem and fiduciary responsibilities as invariant qualities of professionals), or on the strategies of occupational groups that are not yet considered as professionals to be acknowledged as such (Noordegraaf and Schinkel, for example, studied how managers create associational and educational structures as professionalization strategies). While these essentialist and de-essentialized views are different in many ways, they have in common that they look at (‘pure’ or ‘wannabe’) professionals from a distance, focusing on the structural and institutional level. The approach I adopt in this paper relates to the second, more relativist and power-centered view on professionalism. However, it differs from both by taking a closer look at how professionalism is constructed on an everyday basis.
The case study, care and social service provision in the Netherlands, is a strategic one. Nurses and social workers – who earlier put effort in acquiring a position as ‘professionals’ – are not only under pressure because of the standardization of their work and the dominance of managerialism; they also increasingly have to position themselves in relation to unpaid workers, particularly volunteers. In current care and social policies in the Netherlands, but also in other developed welfare states, volunteers are expected to take over some of the tasks of paid staff. While professional nurses and social workers are subject to de-professionalization, at the same time, volunteers are trained to become more and more ‘professional’.
Based on interviews with paid and unpaid workers in care and social services and observations of their everyday practices, I examine how ‘the professional’ is conceptualized and positioned in a context of increasing responsibilities for volunteers.