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Caring on the clock: The complexities and contradictions of paid care work

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Duffy, Mignon; Armenia, Amy & Stacey, Clare L.
Book / booklet
Publication Date: 
2 Dec 2015


Excerpts from introductory chapter

The goal of this volume is to bring together cutting-edge empirical research about paid care workers into a comprehensive frame. We believe that collectively, these disparate occupations represent a critical sector of our economic and social activity. Not only is care for the young, the old, and those who are ill and disabled one of the basic ethical obligations of a society, but it is also labor that undergirds the successful participation of many members of society in the labor market, in famililes, and in communities. This group of occupations is also linked by a tendency to be devalued relative to other similarly situated workers. Because care is labor intensive and dependent on interpersonal relationship, it is less responsive to the supply and demand mechanisms of the market, leading to shortages in both the quality and quantity of care provided by paid workers. In addition, many paid care occupations in the United States have been historically constructed as extensions of women's unpaid roles in the home, contributing to the lack of economic and social recognition of paid care work. Within paid care, some jobs have been disproportionately relegated groups of women who are further marginalized by their class, race, ethnicity, or citizenship. Our current social organization of care depends on paid care workers to meet some of the most critical needs of American families. The challenges facing paid care workers undermine the ability of the sector to provide adequate, quality care to those families who need it. 

By bringing together studies of a range of different paid care occupations, we aim to better understand the challenges faced by this group of workers as well as illuminate the potantial strengths of the sector. A comprehensive frame allows for a comparative approach that identifies both common threads and fractures within the paid care sector. While these issues have significant intellectual and theoretical import, our ultimate interest is in advancing knowledge that can inform policy and social change with an eye to closing the gap between the inadequacy of our current system of care provision and the care needs that are so fundamental to our society. 

Selected chapters of interest 

The business of caring: Women's self-employment and the marketization of care
By Nickela Anderson and Karen D. Hughes

For children and self: Understanding collective action among early childhood educators
By Clare Hammonds