European Work and Employment Research Centre

Public and Private Care Work

The project will focus upon two sets of care workers - childcare workers and home care workers - contrasting the pay and working conditions of those working in the private sector and those working for the public sector. The low pay and poor working conditions can be found in both the home care and childcare sector, particularly in the private sector. The project will explore how developments such as the expansion of the private sector provision are contributing to the gender pay gap by pushing the pay of many care workers further down, leaving the minority in the public sector with better pay and conditions. The project therefore addresses the needs of a number of target groups identified in the Regional Development Plan.

These groups include women returners, lone mothers and women entrepreneurs. As a key provider of employment opportunities for women the care sector is particularly important to young women and a significant share of women in the sector are under 25. In the home care sector women are predominately in their thirties or older with care responsibilities, often returning to the labour market. It is also crucial to examine the those women starting businesses in the childcare sector where they face increasing difficulties in competing with public sector providers who can offer better pay and conditions to their childcare workers and benefit from government subsidies. The needs of those who seek to make the transition from part-time to full-time work will also be addressed as increasingly homecare work is part time work only and offers few full time options

The reduced quality of part time working available in the private sector care sector is a key concern as this will contribute to the recruitment problems in the sector and jeopardise government initiatives to provide quality childcare for women wishing to return to work.

Overall the project results will be useful to a wide range of participants in the sector including care workers and employers in the care sector. Furthermore the results will be of use to policy makers and social partners at the regional and national level. The result will give insights to the position of care workers in both the private and the public sector and how to improve the employment conditions for care workers.

The project aims to build upon findings in the first studies and examine home care and childcare in two contrasting areas in the region. The first childcare project examined the childcare sector across the region and identified the poorer pay and conditions for those working in the private sector as well as the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs. The first organisational change project examined the changing delivery of homecare in two large local authority and detailed evidence was gathered on the terms and conditions of employment of individual home carers working for the local authority as well as the reasons for the expansion of private provision.

In this follow-up study we will build upon these studies and focus specifically upon a comparison of the different employment conditions and opportunities for women in the private and public sectors and whether this is contributing to the gender pay gap in the region and also the shortages in the care sector that could have a detrimental affect on women who use this care to maintain continuous contact with the labour market. This project will ensure that the private sector provision of childcare and homecare is explored fully, so a systematic comparison can be made between women carers working for the local authority in the region and those working in the private sector.


The European Work and Employment Research Centre was established in 1994 to build upon and develop expertise in comparative and inter-disciplinary research in the area of work and employment.

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