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To work or to care? Working women's decision-making

Recent changes in older people's public care services in Nordic countries in particular in Finland and Sweden are based on implicit expectations that family members will increase their involvement in care. In Nordic countries, the care of small children has been acknowledged to be a social matter that concerns gender equality and the work life participation of both men and women, while the situation of working carers of older people is much less acknowledged. This study addressed the question of how Finnish working women who give care to their older parents argue for and against their decisions of working and caring and the meaning of work and care in these decisions. Majority of the interviewees emphasised the importance of work and refuted the idea of leaving work for care. The decision not to leave work for care was justified with worker identity, commitment to work, having no innate skills to be a carer, availability of support services and other carers and financial necessity. On the other hand, a few interviewees brought forward their willingness to leave work which was justified by constructing care as meaningful and valuable activity as opposed to meaningless paid employment, and with the intensification of work, and with ageing. Lengthy argumentation and several discursive tools indicate that women anticipated moral blame for the decision of giving work primacy over care, but also for leaving work. Thus, working carers balance between contrasting expectations to care and to work.

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Community, Work & Family

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