S3.2 Care work in the Nordic countries: organization, work content and working conditions
Chair: Marta Szebehely
Eldercare services are rapidly changing in most countries and so are the employment and working conditions for care workers. The conditions of work affect not only the quality of the care that care workers are able to offer, but also the content and quality of the jobs in which they are employed. In this symposium we present results from the Nordcare survey of care workers in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden conducted in 2005 (N=3,208) and in 2015 (N=3,801). A challenging result of the study is the increase in all four countries of the proportion of workers reporting that they seriously have considered quitting. Perhaps even more problematic is that, in 2015, the proportion who want to quit is the highest among those with longest formal training. This result reinforces the challenges already noted by eldercare employers in all countries about how to recruit and retain care staff. In this session, the scholars behind the study present ongoing work based on the Nordcare survey.
S3.2.1 Changes in the content of care and the working conditions of care workers –
impact of marketisation and reablement?
Tine Rostgaard1, Teppo Kröger2, Anneli Stranz3, Mia Vabø4
The Danish Centre of Applied Social Science, Denmark, 2 University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 3 Stockholm University, Sweden, 4 NOVA, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
This paper presents the changes 2005-2015 in the content of care, the characteristics of care workers and their perceptions of working conditions in both home care and nursing homes. Preliminary analysis suggests that care work has changed over time and in coherence with the dominant paradigm of New Public Management, with more time spent on administrative tasks such as documentation. There also seems to have been a shift in professional responsibility as care workers to an increasing degree administer medication and injections. There is on the other hand less time for relational work such as having or taking time to ‘drink coffee’ with the older person. Care work remains gendered in that the great majority of care workers are women, but the workforce is becoming more ethnically diverse as more employees have a migrant background. Controlling for the changes in care worker characteristics, our findings show that working conditions have worsened over time with less time to carry out the work and less time allowed for each older person. Our analysis also suggests some more sector dependent findings: Home care workers experience problems of job autonomy and meaningfulness, while care workers in nursing homes express lack of support from their supervisors and feelings of inadequacy.
S3.2.2 Part-time work– the great paradox of Norwegian elder care
Mia Vabø1, Ida Drange2
1 NOVA, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway, 2 AFI, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Besides the challenge to recruit and retain enough qualified staff to meet future demands, Norway has an additional challenge – the part-time problem: a full time equivalent in the care sector corresponds to one and a half employees. Data from the Nordcare-surveys indicate that short part time work (less than 25 hours) and involuntary part-time work are more widespread in Norway than in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
How can we explain the high number of involuntary part-timers in Norway? How is involuntary part-time related to age, family responsibilities, place of residence (urban or rural), number of hours worked per week?
Despite similar high levels of involuntary part-time both study years, the reasons behind the wish for more hours seem to have changed. In 2005, involuntary part-time was strongly related to the number of hours worked per week, in 2015 mainly to age. Young people born into a society dominated by a dual-earner norm expect full-time positions. Thus, the problem may increase and lead to a vicious circle, as younger people turn their backs on care work, thereby contributing to further casualization of the sector.
S3.2.3 Work conditions of Finnish care workers in Nordic comparison
Teppo Kröger, Jiby Mathew Puthenparambil
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
This paper reports fresh results of the NORDCARE study from a Finnish perspective. The focus is on changes between the 2005 and 2015 waves of the study. That is, which working conditions of long-term care workers have changed, and have these changes been positive or negative? Which conditions have remained the same? What explains the changes? Results from Finland are compared to those from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Are working conditions in Finland moving towards the other Nordic countries or away from them? For example, in 2005 Finnish institutional care units had less staff than the other Nordic countries. Ten years later, this is still the case. Overall, in several respects care workers in Finland have more arduous working conditions than care workers in the other countries, which (among other factors) can be related to the less generous public funding of Finnish care services.
S3.2.4 Listen to the care workers: proposals for better working conditions and quality of
Stockholm University, Sweden
Retrenchment, reorganisation and marketisation have changed the conditions for care workers in residential care homes over time. Results from the Nordcare study, with a focus on Sweden, show that the conditions of work have deteriorated during the last decade. Work intensity has increased considerably, as have feelings of inadequacy in relation to care recipients.
With a backdrop of worsening working conditions between 2005 and 2015, this paper reports a qualitative analysis of an open-ended survey question on the changes the workers would like to see. Central themes underlined in the care workers’ answers concern employment conditions, necessary competences in care work, support and recognition, unwanted care tasks and relational work. The care workers’ responses show that they possess extensive experience and knowledge about the older persons’ needs and wishes, and how best to organize the practical care work to achieve both better working conditions and quality of care.
S3.2.5 Why are home care workers staying in their jobs, and why are they leaving?
Stockholm University, Sweden
In times of organisational transformation of the eldercare system and an increasing need for home care services, the issues of recruitment and retention of care workers have attracted attention in Sweden as in most western countries. In order to recruit care workers and get them to stay in the job, there is a need for research on why they want to stay and why they want to leave their occupation. The aim of the article is to study factors associated with care workers’ intentions to retain or quit their job. The analysis is based on the Nordcare survey and draws on a subsample of respondents working in Swedish home care in 2015. Both fixed and open-ended questions concerning why workers want to leave, why they want to say and what they want to change in the Swedish eldercare system are being analysed. Initially, the results show that 46 percent of home care workers in 2015 seriously considered leaving their occupation. Furthermore, the analysis shows that willingness to stay is related to good relationships with care recipients and colleagues while wanting to quit is associated with workload and organisational factors such as workers’ job autonomy.