Employment and social policies continue to be based upon a gender template that assumes women, especially mothers, are or should be natural carers. Invariably, policies that seek to promote women's entry to paid work do so by facilitating their management and conduct of caring work, thus reinforcing the gender template. In addition, contemporary debates around concepts of citizenship emphasise the obligation to paid employment but fail to tackle the gendered division of caring activities and organisation of care. Enhanced access to childcare merely recreates the gender template by promoting low paid jobs for women as paid carers who are predominantly providing care services for other women. The provision of unpaid paternity leave is unlikely to challenge the strong association between femininity, mothering and care work.
In this article we explore notions of caring, home and employment. It is argued that ambivalence exists amongst policy makers, employers, and society more generally, towards the gendered nature of caring and the implications of this for women, and men who wish to care, who are in paid employment. These are old issues and the authors consider why change in social and public policies is so slow. The authors argue that a consideration of gender and equality principles, currently largely absent from welfare and employment policies, and debates on notions of citizenship, should form the basis for the development of future strategies to support parents and children.