Quality of jobs in the sector of elderly care: is there any solution?
Department Sciences Sociales (ENS) Institution Centre Maurice Halbwachs (EHESS/ENS) & Centre d'étude de l'emploi Noisy-le-Grand, France
Professional Elderly care is one of the most difficult professions. Part-time work, a low salary per hour and a spread time schedule characterize it. Placed between social politics and employment politics, these jobs are affected by reforms, which are aiming at guaranteeing permanent care as well as at increasing the quality of the jobs.
The guarantee of permanent care is characterized by an increase of the financial help to the person in need of care through the public policy of the personalized allowance for autonomy (Allocation personnalisé à l'Autonomie). Since 2002 this allowance allows to finance a certain part of care done by professionals. The increase of quality is attempted by professionnalisation, through professional training, in particular the state diploma of social life helper (Diplôme d'état d'auxiliaire de vie).
The French care sector is structured in three ways, all of them defined by the legal status of the labour relation. In representative order, we find the "provider way" first (this means that the elderly pay an organisation to provide care); the second one, is « direct employment » (the elderly is the employer of the care worker) and the third one, the "mandate way" (this means that the elderly hire the professional care-worker, but an organisation takes care of the administrative tasks).
Recent research on the quality of work in the professional care work opposes these 3 forms of working contracts in order to show the difference of quality that is inherent to them. We will argue that quality of these jobs is not consubstantial to the legal statue but to the main characteristics of the care activity, and the way it is defined by the socials politics.
By analysing the workers' time schedules, the care plan defined by the public policy and ethnographic interviews conducted in a French district, we will show that work characteristics and definitions are more significant than legal status to define quality. Furthermore we will show that the attempt of profesionnalisation takes the wrong turn, as specialising the worker in a certain kind of tasks can negatively impact the quality of professional care.