Working title: The double sidedness of informal elder care work; domestic space, daily strategies and negotiations of Croatian eldercare workers
In the last decades, domestic work has become a major topic of research in social sciences and humanities. Due to the fact that domestic work is usually the only available form of work, millions of women move around the globe (Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2010) in search for a vital, money earning opportunity in order to support their families back home. Thus, nowadays domestic work is a drastically changed sector directly linked to feminisation of migration and work (Lutz 2008; Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2010). Behind this global phenomenon, two major causes of increased demand can be identified. First, the prevalence of gendered division of housework within households. Secondly, the failure of governments to meet the needs created by its women's entry into the workforce, making the search for a domestic worker a „private solution to a public problem“(Ehrenreich and Russell Hochschild 2002:9, 18).
Feminist scholars have argued that by outsourcing help and care gender roles are reinforced and global inequalities are reproduced and consolidated. In fact, paid domestic work becomes a means through which asymmetrical, intersecting relations pertaining to gender, race, culture, class and citizenship status are structured and negotiated (Henshall Momsen 1999). More so, placed behind closed doors, with only loose verbal agreements to rely on, migrant domestic workers are reduced to marginal, invisible and subaltern voices within our society (Grilli and Mugnaini 2009). Thus, domestic work becomes a site of struggle, negotiation, exploitation and racialization (Anderson 2000; Henshall Momsen 1999; Salazar Parreñas 2001).
In contrast to most researches, my PhD project examines domestic work as a heterogeneous category and I suggest that informal elder care, opposed to cleaning and childcare, consists of a specific set of activities as well as dispositional attitudes. Secondly, although until recently Croatia has mostly been a sending country, this research aims to explore the local informal elder care market. By questioning the universally accepted concept of transnational “care-chain” (Salaazar Parreñas in Hrženjak and Humer, 2011), which stresses the outsourcing of care work to migrant workers, I focus on the local care market and its specific features. Hence, I will focus on the case of Croatian live-in elder carers and the complex nature of their working and living conditions as well as where care is located and performed.
The central question of my research is how these two above mentioned elements interrelate and how much domestic space and its materiality becomes essential for negotiating relationships between families and care workers. Addressing this neglected but intrinsic part of domestic work, i.e. domestic space, can help us to better understand the daily experiences of work for live-in informal eldercare workers, the material and immaterial aspects, emotional and relational work and negotiations and strategies which workers develop in order to improve their working and living conditions.
Supervisor: dr.sc. Sanja Potkonjak