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2018 Conference Presentation

Informal care AustriaFranceGermanyItalyThe Netherlands

10 September 2018

Juggling work and care for a frail family member: an international comparison

Andrea E. Schmidt, Austrian Public Health Institute, Austria

Michael Fuchs, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Work and Welfare, Austria
Ricardo Rodrigues, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Health and Care, Austria


Background: Unlike with child care, care leave models in long-term care have been introduced relatively recently in most developed countries. Care leaves present informal caregivers with the possibility to leave work in order to care for a frail, sick or disabled family member. In fact, the academic literature on reconciliation of paid work and unpaid care has focused on parents of younger children, and attempts for a typology of care leave models for long-term care in different welfare states are found wanting.

Objectives: This paper aims to (i) evaluate the role of care leaves as a social policy measure in five European welfare states (Austria, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands), and Canada, and (ii) place care leaves within existing long-term care typologies in developed welfare states. The analysis covers the following analytical dimensions: labour market attachment, universal coverage, legal security, flexibility, income security, social security and gender equality. An analysis of cost-effectiveness and take-up complement the analysis. The theoretical-conceptual framework for analysis further distinguishes between inputs (e.g. public resources), output (e.g. take-up of the measure) and outcomes (e.g. labour market participation of caregivers).

Methods: A two-step approach is used, applying a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. In the first step, a systematic review of the academic literature, grey literature and legal documents on care leaves was carried out for each country, together with 2-3 expert interviews over the phone or in person per country in 2016. Information on cost estimates and take-up was collected via national statistical offices and written evaluations. In the second step, a systematic review of the academic literature on long-term care welfare state typologies was carried out identifying indicators that highlight differences across long-term care regimes (e.g. share of older people using long-term care services; public expenditure on long-term care; share of people providing informal care). Results from both steps are brought together in a qualitative analysis using so-called magic rectangles which provide a graphic representation of care leave models and thus facilitate the analysis of commonalities and differences across countries.

Results: The results show that care leave models represent a distinct form of social policy support, and may only partly be classified along existing welfare typologies in long-term care. Next to indicators referring to the long-term care system in a narrow sense, other indicators like female labour market participation, the share of men working part-time and general attitudes towards care and support are likely to influence the design and take-up of care leave models in significant ways.

Conclusion: We conclude that the role of care leave models in different long-term care regimes deserves further attention, as they are likely to represent an important but under-researched aspect of comparative welfare state research.

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