Caring on the Clock: The Complexities and Contradictions of Paid Care Work

Caring on the Clock: The Complexities and Contradictions of Paid Care Work

Caring on the Clock: The Complexities and Contradictions of Paid Care Work

Caring on the Clock: The Complexities and Contradictions of Paid Care Work

Synopsis

A nurse inserts an I.V. A personal care attendant helps a quadriplegic bathe and get dressed. A nanny reads a bedtime story to soothe a child to sleep. Every day, workers like these provide critical support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Caring on the Clock provides a wealth of insight into these workers, who take care of our most fundamental needs, often at risk to their own economic and physical well-being. Caring on the Clock is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research on a wide range of paid care occupations, and to place the various fields within a comprehensive and comparative framework across occupational boundaries. The book includes twenty-two original essays by leading researchers across a range of disciplines--including sociology, psychology, social work, and public health. They examine the history of the paid care sector in America, reveal why paid-care work can be both personally fulfilling but also make workers vulnerable to burnout, emotional fatigue, physical injuries, and wage exploitation. Finally, the editors outline many innovative ideas for reform, including top-down and grassroots efforts to improve recognition, remuneration, and mobility for care workers. As America faces a series of challenges to providing care for its citizens, including the many aging baby boomers, this volume offers a wealth of information and insight for policymakers, scholars, advocates, and the general public.

Excerpt

In writing here, I have the privilege and honor of wearing two hats. The first hat, and the reason I initially volunteered to write a foreword for Caring on the Clock, was so that I could reflect, at least briefly, on the many changes in the study of care work since my sister Emily K. Abel and I edited one of the first collections on this topic almost twenty-five years ago.

To be sure, as we brought together the fifteen chapters of Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives (1990), we were attentive to a range of the varied issues raised in this wonderful new anthology. We addressed the fact that caregiving was a practice associated overwhelmingly with women, and we theorized about how feminist reformulations could help capture the meaning and nature of caregiving. We reflected on the constellation of events that were transforming the nature of caregiving in our society, such as the growing number of women in the labor force, the expanding size of the service sector, cutbacks in public funding for human services, and the aging of the population. And, well aware that context mattered, we organized the chapters around different domains in which the provision of care occurs.

Of course we had no way of knowing then how the scholarship on caregiving would expand over the next two decades. But it did. The initial theoretical foray of Berenice Fisher and Joan Tronto (1990) developed into full-blown books and essays. Some of this development is both reviewed and brilliantly expanded by the editors of this new collection in the first chapter about how to define and analyze care work. The substantive work on a range of caregiving occupations and activities has exploded to include separate studies of a wide range of different occupations. This research also finds a home in this collection in the essays about occupations as diverse as nannies through hospice workers and nurses.

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