Care Crisis: Racialised Women at the Crossroads of Migration, Labour Market and Family Policies

Graphic Recording Oktober 2013Graphic Recording Oktober 2013. Urheber: Gabriele Heinzel. All rights reserved.

Besides job creations and responding to care needs, a central argument justifying the development of in-home care[1] has been that of gender equality. Emilia Roig argues in her paper that the stated policy objective of “freeing” the productive potential of the more highly-skilled women – as announced by the European Commission – widens the gender pay gap, instead of fostering gender equality in the workplace. Official reports on gender equality in Germany state that one of the main drivers of gender inequality in the labour market is the gender segregation of professions (BMFSFJ 2011). Studies of gender stratification have shown that the gender pay gap is due to three main interlocking factors:

  • (1) the unequal division of household tasks between men and women, which leads to career interruptions for women due to child and elderly care;
  • (2) the devaluation of feminised labour, which translates in the better remuneration of male-dominated compared to female-dominated professions with comparable qualifications[2] (e.g. firemen vs. nurses); and
  • (3) the gender-segregation of professions, which creates structural gender inequalities across occupational sectors, characterised by lower pay for feminised sectors (see Lemière and Silvera 2008; Kilbourne et al. 1994).

Policies supporting household and in-home care services contribute to the development of a highly feminised, precarious and low-skilled labour sector, in turn indirectly increasing the pay differentials between men and women – and between women. This paper seeks to analyse the combined effects of family, labour market, gender equality and migration policies on the position of racialised women in the care labour sector. What are the objectives of these various sets of policies, and most importantly, how are they articulated? How is the policy goal and constitutional duty to ensure the advancement of gender equality reconciled with the growth of a highly precarious gender-segregated labour sector marked by the overrepresentation of racialised women? Special attention will be drawn to the implications of gender- and colourblind laws and policies. In what specific ways do seemingly gender- and race-neutral laws impact women and/or racialised minorities? What processes create such (un)intended effects?

The first section of this paper outlines migration policy measures linked to the labour market for care; the second analyses the gendered and race-related effects of the flexibilisation of the labour market on care workers; and the third explores the interplay between heteronormativity, structural gender inequality, and gender-blind laws and policies.

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Care Crisis: Racialised Women at the Crossroads of Migration, Labour Market and Family Policies

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