Caring For/caring About: Women, Home Care and Unpaid Caregiving

By Tam, Cynthia | Women & Environments International Magazine, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview
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Caring For/caring About: Women, Home Care and Unpaid Caregiving


Tam, Cynthia, Women & Environments International Magazine


CARING FOR/CARING ABOUT: WOMEN, HOME CARE AND UNPAID CAREGIVING Edited by Karen R. Grant, Carol Amaratunga, Pat Armstrong, Madeline Boscoe, Ann Pederson, and Kay WilLson. Aurora Ontario: Garamond Press, 2004. $24.95 CDN, 224 pages

Who cares? Women do. Why should we care? Because almost 80% of paid and unpaid caregivers are women. Because health care cuts and restructuring means downgrading of care without adequate resources to the community, home, and predominantly, to women. Because the gendered nature of caregiving must be understood in order for just and equitable policies and practices to be created. Because caregiving is a public issue: a social, political, global, and economic issue. Because care affects each and every woman's life. If we don't care about care, who will? Caring For/Caring About: Women, Home Care, and Unpaid Caregiving makes people care. The seven chapters in this book will make you think not only about who cares but the conditions that shape the how, when, and where care is given.

First - the big picture. The first chapter discusses how global trends such as free trade, "commodification" of care, "disposable domestics", and first and third world inequalities affect care practices. The state makes the decisions, influenced by market mechanisms such as privatization and for-profit care, and therefore determines how resources are distributed. The shift of care from public to private spheres has resulted in the devaluing of paid and unpaid care work.

For women who make up the majority of caregivers and care recipients, this is bad news. Gender-based research reveals that care costs. For women caregivers, care interferes with paid work and, consequently, pensions and benefits. Care affects women's health more negatively than men, with rural and lesbian/gay populations experiencing more stress. As care recipients, women receive less short-term, post-op home care and were found to be at greater risk for violence and personal safety. The author stresses the need for gender-based analysis of home care policy and practices to determine the socioeconomic impact due to structural and gender inequalities.

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