2018 Conference Presentation
Objectives: The Austrian LTC regime relies strongly on informal care provided for free or with only little compensation by family caregivers, most of whom are women. Meanwhile, a substantial part of informal caregivers are full-time or part-time employed. Yet the Austrian LTC regime with its main features (especially the LTC benefit) still builds on the idea of a non-employed caregiver and provides little support for combining paid employment and informal care work.
In 2014, a new measure in the Austrian LTC regime was introduced in two variants: care leave and part-time care leave, for a standard duration of three months. Taking leave is contingent upon an agreement with the employer and is compensated with a care leave allowance. In our contribution, we discuss whether this measure can be interpreted as a new approach within the Austrian LTC regime. Furthermore, based on qualitative research, we present initial empirical evidence on how employed informal caregivers do or do not use care leave/part-time.
Methods: The contribution is based on a research project that investigated the situation of employed informal caregivers in Austria and connected social policy analyses with qualitative sociological empirical research. The research included a detailed analysis of the relevant policy frameworks in Austria based on a) a literature review and analyses of legal provisions, b) six semi-structured expert interviews and c) nine qualitative case studies with employed informal caregivers and, in some cases, additional family members. As the care leave models were implemented in Austria at an early stage of the research project (2014 – 2017), the topic was included in all parts of the research.
Results: Employed caregivers face barriers and difficulties with regard to making use of (part-time) care leave. We identify unsolved issues and contradictions in different areas: formal eligibility criteria, job insecurities, financial needs, the character of care and the realities of everyday care work.
Conclusions: As the first policy instrument to focus on caregivers rather than the persons in need of care, and explicitly addressing reconciliation issues, care leave can be seen as indicating a new approach in the Austrian LTC regime. However, it leaves the framework conditions (e.g., a lack of professional home care services) unchanged and has severe shortcomings with regard to caregivers’ empirical needs.
References: The findings are based on the project „Erwerbstätige pflegende Angehörige in Österreich: Herausforderungen im Alltag und für die Politik“, supported by the Anniversary Fund of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) (project number 16049), conducted by FORBA 2014–2017. In particular, the presentation builds on the following article: Mairhuber, Ingrid, Sardadvar, Karin. 2017. Pflegekarenz und Pflegeteilzeit in Österreich: Eine Neuausrichtung im Langzeitpflegeregime? Folgen, Potenziale und Grenzen einer Maßnahme zur 'Vereinbarkeit' von Erwerbsarbeit und Care, in: Femina Politica. Zeitschrift für feministische Politikwissenschaft 26 (2), 47-61.