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WP1: Care

WP1 targets solutions for care that go beyond the tradition of seeking these in the family domain alone.


Challenge 1: Reshaping Care

Sustainability Threat. Caring for others is a cooperative act and individuals differ in their inclination to invest time and energy in care tasks. Institutional arrangements, including solidarity norms, strongly influence the willingness to help. The retreat of the welfare state increases the demand for care by kin and non-kin, but at the same time, changing family structures and later retirement limit the supply of care. How can the provision of care be reshaped in order to guarantee both individual and societal wellbeing?

State of the Art. So far, research has mainly concentrated on how individuals and families deal with the increasing demand for care. Whereas an increase of caregiving sometimes leads to positive experiences, it also undermines wellbeing. Reshaping Care puts the focus on parties other than the family. To date, the major focus has been on the importance of country-level institutions, but little on community-level institutions.

Main Proposition. We study the conditions under which changes in the availability of external formal or informal caregivers may increase (indicating complementarity) or decrease (indicating substitution) the supply of care within the family. The SCOOP approach suggests three ways in which families may keep their care efforts sustainable when facing sudden or gradual fluctuations in the supply of external care opportunities: if they succeed in allocating degrees of responsibility for different care tasks, if their caregiver identity remains aligned with their (changing) other identities, and if they have access to resource brokers, i.e. inter-organizationally networked neighborhood institutions.

Main outcome. This challenge solves the problem of demand and supply for care in families and communities, and provides policy guidelines to increase the complementarity between different care providers and institutions at community level.

Sustainability Threat. A key challenge in the care domain relates to the interaction between different cooperative roles. Individuals can have a stable and mutually satisfying cooperative relation both with their family at home and colleagues at work. Yet the sustainability of these relations may be challenged when these domains interfere with each other. The competing demands of work and family place increasing pressure on sustainable cooperation in all family structures, but particularly in dual-earner households with children and blended families. How can balancing work and life be facilitated so as not to jeopardize the sustainability of cooperative relations with family members and at work?

State of the Art. The competing demands from work and family life are often studied using a conflict model (in time or in values), that has to be resolved by choosing or compromising between the two domains. It implicitly assumes that work identities are not compatible with care identities.

Main Proposition. We examine the conditions enabling positive spillover between work and family, taking into account the social and institutional structure in which identities are shaped. The SCOOP framework suggests that even where work and care identities are compatible, their balance will have a tendency to decay, because situational requirements at work tend to become gradually more salient. We contend that whether or not the compatibility between work and care identities will be sustainable depends on the degree to which “governance structures” in the family are sufficiently strong to counterbalance.

Main outcome. This challenge will offer guidelines for policymakers and society how to achieve positive spillover between work and family


Challenge 3: Creating Caring Communities

Sustainability Threat. The retreat of the welfare state goes hand in hand with the emergence of local self-governing institutions, so called caring communities. We are just beginning to understand how cooperation within caring communities functions. In recent times many predicted that the retreat would have negative feedback effects because local governments lack the necessary expertise and resources to coordinate the multiple stakeholders operating in complex organizational fields. The key question of this challenge is which institutional mechanisms should societies develop to make caring communities inclusive and accessible to all.

State of the art. An often implicit assumption that also seems to guide current policy making is that such caring communities emerge spontaneously and stay alive automatically.

Main Proposition. We assume that cooperation may be easy to trigger but it has a built-in tendency to decay unless it is kept alive through flanking arrangements. These arrangements can be rooted in cohesive network structures that enforce norms, or in strong institutional structures that increase opportunities and provide rewards, or they can be sought in strengthening of caregiver identities. The problem is that these mechanisms may reinforce each other but can also compete.

Main outcome. Institutional rules and regulations (both formal and informal) will be offered for the governance of caring communities and to make caring communities inclusive and accessible to all.