Household Carers and Gender Inequalities: A Comparative Perspective on Care

Monday, July 14, 2014: 8:00 PM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Virginie GUIRAUDON , CNRS and Sciences Po Paris, Paris, France
Domestic services are now on the global policy agenda. In Europe, there has also been a development of varied forms of domestic work that recall periods such as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries where domestic help spread beyond the nobility to merchants and farmers’ households. In fact, then as now, the recruitment of domestic labor is an important expression of social relations, including social class and status, as well as a means of reproducing them. Hhousehold services have been understood as a solution to the “Great Transformation” of recent decades that involves ageing of the population, changes in family structure and gender roles, with the masculinisation of women’s employment patterns, in a context of shortage of public care services, in-migration and de-industrialization which in turn calls for the development of the services sector. This paper examines policies that encourage (through fiscal policies mainly) the hiring of domestic workers thus has a political economy aspect since labor market regulations and welfare state policy legacies will influence responses to socio-demographic changes. It focuses on gender inequality: Domestic workers relieve women from doing this work themselves and avoid gender conflicts over the division of domestic work but can reinforce inequalities amongst women and reproduce gender roles. Finally, domestic work is often performed by migrants or minority women from previous migration waves although some activation policies have emphasized the retraining of women native workers. Notwithstanding what is the consequence of household services on the question of global inequality? This paper focuses on political debates relating to domestic work during the last quarter of century and the policy measures adopted, their stated goals and their actual consequences in France, Belgium and at the EU level.