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What makes men work in the long-term care sector?

2016 Conference Presentation

Workforce EnglandUnited Kingdom

5 September 2016

What makes men work in the long-term care sector?

Shereen Hussein, King's College London, United Kingdom


Care work with vulnerable adults and older people has been traditionally regarded as women’s work. It remains quantitatively and qualitatively characterised by a significant over representation of women. The latter relates, in part, to the evolving nature of care work from the private to the public sphere and the assumed responsibility of emotional care placed on women. The escalating demands on long term care (LTC), due to ageing population and other factors, call for strategies to encourage and enable people with different characteristics to consider employment in the care sector.

There is an increasing research interest in men joining and continuing work in this emotional occupation. Some of this research focuses on potential advantages from working in a gender atypical employment, including the presence of some form of a ‘glass escalator’. Previous research indicates that for some men who join the sector there are indeed some advantages reflected in higher prevalence in managerial roles and higher average earnings. However, these advantages operate through a hierarchy of other factors. Thus, not all men, particularly those from Black and minority ethnic groups or migrants experience the same ‘glass escalator’ when working in the gender atypical jobs of LTC. There is a lack of research evidence to understand key motivations for different groups of men to join and continue working in the LTC sector.

This paper explores this specific gap in the literature using new empirical data. The latter relates to a unique mixed-methods longitudinal study of LTC workers in England, consisting of a survey (n= 1,342) and in-depth interviews with men (n=21) over two-time periods (T1: 2010–11 and T2: 2012–13). Analysis of the survey data indicates some significant differences in key motivations of men joining the LTC when compared to that of women as well as inter-gender variations related to personal and workplace characteristics.

The qualitative data analysis provides insightful understanding of the decision making process involved when men join the care sector, highlighting the importance of social care policy context and developments, social networks and individuals’ overall life projects. The findings are discussed in relation to recruitment strategies and wider policy implications related to LTC workforce development.