Dolors Comas d’Argemir (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona)
Professor of Social Anthropology in the University Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona). She has carried out fieldwork in Central Pyrenees in political ecology, changing relations in the family, work systems and gender. She has conducted research about women, work and care, gender violence and media. In between, she has been member of the Catalan Parliament and she participated in the making of several laws related with social issues and media. Her research interest nowadays is about men as caregivers of adult people (long-term care). She has numerous publications about these subjects.
Men in long term care: family, social order and masculinities
My intervention focuses on the involvement of men in care work of dependent people in the context of the care crisis and the economic crisis. The care crisis is especially linked to an ‘ageing of ageing’ that increases care needs. On the other hand, the economic crisis and the austerity policies have led to higher rates of unemployment and poverty, worsened by reduced services and benefits for long-term care. I suggest that this twofold crisis is forcing some men to take on care work, either paid or unpaid. I will pay particular attention to men caring for dependent adults in the family context. My argumentation is linked to the current qualitative and interdisciplinary research into this subject that we are conducting in Catalonia (Spain).
Caring for adults differs from caring for children in both motivation and commitment to care. We argue that the likelihood of providing long term care in the family is higher in cases in which the carer does not participate in the labour market or when salaries are low. This could be one of the reasons why most men caring for dependent adults are outside the labour market: retired men caring for their spouses, working age men who are unemployed or other who have left poorly paid jobs. In times of crisis men take on the caring role when women cannot do so, especially if the women are working and in better paid jobs.
Our research reveal the invisibility of men as caregivers of dependent people, because the difficulties to recognise the informal care-giving in general, and the difficulties of men to recognise themselves as caregivers. Those difficulties of recognition are related to the social and cultural construction of care, linked to moral obligations and sentiments and to the gender roles.