SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Browse books and journal articles relating to this SDG below and find out more on the UN Sustainable Development Goals website.
This chapter demonstrates how ailment mobilises concrete, embodied and emotional responses in immediate social encounters and care work, along with discussing the gendered, racialised and classed divisions of care labour that extend to a global scale. The relatedness and variance inherent in ailment – and care as a key response to it – mean that there is a large degree of unpredictability in the chain reactions that ailment creates. Moreover, as responses to ailment may include neglect, violence and humiliation, a variety of ethical and political identities and structures can ensue. Societal structures and the organisation of care work specifically affect and ail those who have less power, influence and money: typically, working-class women, racialised minorities and international migrants. The varying responses to ailment in the world may be imagined as an emergent and constantly changing network of relatedness and affects that organise societies. Within these local and global networks, those caring for others are also affected by their care relationships and may suffer various kinds of distress, which are discussed in terms of caregiver ailment. Political and institutional actors who ignore the relationality of care and often disregard the needs of the caregiver play a major role in engendering and perpetuating caregiver ailment.
This chapter introduces the concept of ailment, which is about generalised care needs, including the need for self-care. Ailment does not indicate an immediate dependency on others. Rather, it is a human condition and force that mobilises emotions, actions and relations. Responses to ailment extend from concrete encounters between human beings in the immediate environment to political and institutional responses in societies across the world. The political relatedness that ailment enacts in the world and the different kinds of social orders that emerge through different personal and collective responses to the needs of ailing subjects are discussed.
Deficiencies in old age care are some of the most pressing human rights concerns in mature welfare states.
This book radically challenges the ethics of viewing care as a tradeable commodity and introduces a novel framework for understanding and analysing social care through the concept of ailment. Providing examples from the British and Finnish welfare states, it demonstrates how ailment shapes societies from the micro to the macro level. Addressing the marketisation and financialisation of care, the authors bring to light increasing inequalities in care.
This book argues that ailment is part of human life and society, and therefore the politics of care should begin with a politics of ailment.
This chapter concludes the book by focusing on today’s circumstances, with ailing bodies having become sources of profit making and the ailments of their caregivers largely unacknowledged or misrecognised. It is time to change how humans are perceived. The notion of homo aegrotus – the ailing human – recognises ailment as a permanent and all-encompassing feature of societies. It generates a variety of responses and creates webs of connections between individuals, families, communities, regions and countries. When approaching the field of care with the concept of ailment, a new political regime becomes imaginable. The new political regime derives from ailment in its two senses: the existential state of human ailing, and the affective or responsive state of being bothered by it. The ailing earth is also implicated here, emphasising human interdependency with biodiversity and ecosystems and thus opening possibilities for research into and the development of sustainable, caring policies. From this perspective, large portions of modern societies appear to be built around ailment.
This chapter examines how the marketisation and financialisation of care are transforming and challenging the social and care policies developed during the heyday of the welfare state. Marketisation and financialisation significantly affect these politics of ailment by introducing the mechanisms of profit making, competition and choice as solutions to human ailment and by replacing the ailing subject with a market actor as the target of social policies. Nevertheless, ailment continues to be a mobilising force that simultaneously generates both social and care relations and market and financial activities. The problem with these trends and the neoliberal vision on which they rely is that the logic of the market is different from – and largely incompatible with – responses to ailment that are based on a logic of care. While businesses perceive ailment as producing unlimited market opportunities, they fail as to the more profound recognition of ailment as an existential human condition warranting ethically sound responses such as affordable care.
This chapter’s sections – ‘Sanctioning the ailing’, ‘Protecting the ailing workforce’, ‘Acknowledging ailment’ and ‘Failing the ailing’ – trace how ailment as a social force has historically manifested itself in social and care policies in western societies. In pre-modern Europe, workhouses and other disciplinary institutions were used to control and sanction ailing individuals. Later, social policies began to recognise the need to protect the ailing workforce to secure the demands of an industrialising world. After the Second World War, social and care policies began addressing ailment throughout the life course, and collective and public responses to the needs of ailing individuals expanded to several areas of life as part of the modern welfare state. The transformation of the welfare state and the austerity politics of recent decades have undermined the acknowledgement of ailment in social and care policies. Through this exploration, it is demonstrated how ailment creates various relations and responses and how these responses combine elements of care, control and profit making to different degrees, depending on the historical, political and social context.
This book set out to explore flexible working in a more critical way, asking the question whether flexible working actually provides positive outcomes for workers in terms of work-life balance, workers’ well-being and gender equality as many expect it to. The results of the previous chapters show that paradoxically rather than improving workers’ work-life balance, flexible working increased feelings of conflict between work and family. The reason behind this phenomenon was explained through the flexibility paradox, that flexible working can lead to further exploitation of workers’ labour. This exploitation pattern is gendered. Men expanded their employment hours, namely overtime hours, to fulfil their ideal worker and breadwinner masculine image. Women expanded their unpaid working hours, namely increased time spent on housework and childcare adhering to the social norms around their roles as caregivers. What is more, due to these gendered patterns of flexible working or more so the assumptions behind such patterns, women end up being penalised further when working flexibly despite the fact that they are also likely to work longer and harder on their paid work when working flexibly.
However, I have also shown that the take-up and outcomes of flexible working largely depends on the contexts in which it is used. The way we think about work, work-life balance, and gender roles, workers’ bargaining power and insecurity all help shape the outcomes of flexible working. The book also showed that as flexible working becomes more widely used, we see a shift in the attitudes towards flexible working – namely through the decline in flexibility stigma.
One of the key findings drawn from the previous chapter was that as flexible working becomes more widespread, people are less likely to hold stigmatised views against flexible workers, and it is less likely to lead to negative outcomes in terms of work-life balance. The results were based on cross-national studies which meant that although we do see strong associations we cannot guarantee the direction of the relationship (for example, which came first, stigma or prevalence of flexible working?). We also cannot be certain if the more widespread use of flexible working or changes in contexts are the real causes or if it has to do with something else we failed to observe.1 In other words, the question arises whether we would see positive changes to flexible working practices in countries like the UK and the US if we were to change some of the contexts. These are difficult questions to answer given that cultures, policies and the take-up of flexible working do not usually change rapidly enough for us to properly answer them.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened and provided us with a very unique experimental opportunity to answer some of these difficult questions: What happens if a large group of workers starts working from home? How would this sudden rise of flexible working change stigmatised views towards flexible workers? How would this change the flexibility paradox patterns we have observed previously? How would this change the gender dynamics of the outcomes of flexible working?
This chapter examines the definition of and the growing demand for flexible working. Flexible working is no longer a nice perk ring-fenced for higher-status workers, but a must-have many workers find essential. This is especially the case after the COVID-19 pandemic, which I will look into in greater detail in Chapter 10. In this chapter, I will focus mostly on the pre-pandemic developments of flexible working. The chapter also explores the extent to which governments have responded to the demand for more flexible working by examining some of the most recent legislative changes increasing workers’ right to work flexibly implemented across the world. Following this, some empirical data showing the trends in the provision and access to flexible working is provided using cross-national European data sets, accompanied by some data from other countries like the US. Based on this, what we see is that flexible working is growing when we look at developments in national legislation and company-level data. However, there is no clear evidence showing growth in workers’ access to flexible working when we examine data from the past couple of decades before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But before we go on, what exactly is flexible working? Flexible working can entail employees’ control over when, where and how much they work (Kelly et al, 2014; Chung and van der Lippe, 2020). There are different arrangements relating to employees’ control over when they work. Flexitime enables workers to alternate the starting and ending times of work.
In the previous chapter, we examined the extent to which flexible working is widespread across the world. This chapter continues on from the previous chapter by examining why companies provide flexible working arrangements and who – which individuals – gets access to and uses flexible working. Through these analyses, this chapter aims to show that despite popular belief, provision of/access to flexible working may be still driven by performance-enhancing goals, rather than work-life balance or well-being goals. When examining who has access to flexible working arrangements, family and care demands of workers have limited explanatory power. Rather, it is better explained by the type of work carried out, the relative value the worker has – that is, their skill level, and position of seniority/power they carry, and in general how much performance outcomes employers can expect from these workers. This explains why disadvantaged workers, possibly with the most demand for such flexibility, are the least likely to gain access to such arrangements. This results in a rather polarised access to flexible working arrangements across the labour market. This chapter will look into these issues further. First, I explore the dual nature of flexible working – namely the different purposes it meets. I will then examine the theories explaining why employers provide flexible working arrangements. Finally, the chapter presents empirical evidence testing these theories, and reviews other already published work. This is done to argue that performance outcome goals may trump work-family goals when examining workers’ access to flexible working policies – depending on the flexible working arrangement in question.