The combination of informal care for the elderly and employment - Social inequality and rationality
Institut für Gerontologie Hochschule Vechta Vechta, Germany
Currently, two profound transformations occur at macro structural level, which will have a long lasting influence on care provision for the elderly within the family context. On one hand, the demographic trend is connected with an increase of those people in need of care. On the other hand, in some European countries a rise of female labour market participation can be observed, in particular for the age group between 50 and 65 years.
The contradictory social developments lead to an increasingly number of people - predominantly women - who will be confronted with two conflicting areas of responsibility: employment and care for older relatives. Both spheres show different time structures and work loads. Due to the current socio-political framework and employment conditions it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile both spheres in Germany. Thus, informal carers are forced to decide on whether or how to combine both spheres. The societal change even questions the future of the traditional family oriented care model in Germany, which is based on the acceptance of informal care provision by family members.
The contribution aims at presenting a theoretical framework which allows to reconstruct and to explain the process of decision making related to the conflicting priorities of informal care and gainful employment. Based on the assumption that individual decisions are embedded in the context of existing opportunity structures variables which affect the opportunities will be defined. Empirical data indicates that the opportunity to combine both spheres is strongly influenced by the social status of the potential informal carer. Within the theoretical framework social status is defined by the classification of different social milieus. To create a comprehensive framework for the analysis of the decision-processes a modified rational-choice-theory by Esser will be combined with findings of an empirical research on care orientations of Blinkert and Klie based on their concept of social milieus. On basis of the theoretical framework conflicts related to the combination of care and employment and their embeddedness in dimensions of social inequality will be shown.