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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development

Claiming and Framing in the Making of Care Policies: The Recognition and Redistribution of Care



The question of how to devise policies to meet the care needs of society has become more urgent than ever. In many parts of the developed world, women’s increasing involvement in paid employment has undermined the traditional male breadwinner model which assumed the availability of a dependent wife at home to care for children, disabled family members and older, frail relatives.

This paper seeks to understand how care policies are shaped. It looks at the dynamic between how constituencies make care claims and the ways in which care policies are constructed and delivered in different national, regional and historical contexts. The focus is mainly on childcare policies for working parents in Europe, but the purview here also includes policies for disabled people and unpaid carers. Its aim is to provide an understanding, within particular contexts, of the relationship between (i) the articulation of claims based on the needs of those who provide and/or receive care; (ii) the political frames and logics of policies which attend to care needs; and (iii) the outcomes of such policies for different groups of care receivers and providers.

The paper is divided into two main sections. The first focuses on the ways different political actors frame care policies in Europe. It starts with a brief review of the theories and concepts that inform the paper. It goes on to apply these to an analysis of how care needs are interpreted in the claims of those representing the providers and receivers of care. Five areas of claims are identified: work/care reconciliation; disabled people’s support; unpaid care; trade union demands for flexibility; and migrant care work. It proposes that, together, claims in these areas expand demands for recognition, rights and the redistribution of responsibilities in relation to care, and that they look to an overarching frame of social justice. The analysis of policy making in Europe shows that some of the discourses attached to notions of social justice find reflection in care policy but that the dominant frame is that of care policy as a form of social investment in human capital. The paper examines political opportunities and constraints in the emergence of social rights for parents and children in Europe.

The second part examines policies in different national contexts by asking which issues drive policies and what this means for outcomes in terms of social inequalities. The issues examined are demographic change, social investment, employment creation and the global nature of care policy.

In conclusion, the paper finds that care policies in Europe are imbued with tension and contradiction from the perspective of those who provide and receive care support. On the one hand, the last decade has seen important changes: for example, the recognition of the employment potential of those previously marginalized from paid work such as mothers and disabled people; the recognition of men’s caring capacities; the rise of state responsibilities for care provision, especially in child care; and the recognition of family carers. On the other hand, these opportunities have been accompanied by constraints, including a sense of obligation by mothers and disabled people to find work often in the more precarious parts of the labour market; the increased commodification of care services; and the construction of parents/carers, older and disabled people exercising choice as consumers in the care market, rather than exercising their voice as citizens in the public domain of care. Such developments have also had the consequence of creating a poorly paid migrant labour economy of care. In this situation the key challenge is to use those spaces in which care has become politicized and rights have been won to advance the political, social and economic value of care as a crucial component in claims for national and transnational social justice.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 22 Dec 2010
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1994-8026
    From: UNRISD