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Care and Social Reproduction: Some Observations on Ireland


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Presentation given at the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair 2014

Published in: Education
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Care and Social Reproduction: Some Observations on Ireland

  1. 1. Care and Social Reproduction: Some observations on Ireland Dr. Conor McCabe Equality Studies, UCD School of Social Justice Dublin Anarchist Bookfair 2014
  2. 2. The term social reproduction encompasses all the means by which society reproduces its families, citizens and workers. It includes all the labour that is necessary for a society to reproduce itself: the biological production of people and workers, and all the social practices that sustain the population - bearing children, raising children, performing emotional work, providing clothing and food, and cooking and cleaning. As a concept social reproduction has been key to feminist social theory, because it challenges the usual distinctions that are made between productive and reproductive labour, or between the labour market and the home. ‘Cuts are a Feminist Issue’, Soundings (Dec 2011)
  3. 3. Rational Economic Man • An autonomous agent • able bodied, independent, rational, heterosexual male who is able to choose from an number of options limited only by certain constraints. • Weighs cost and benefits to maximise utility • Self interested in marketplace; altruistic at home
  4. 4. Gender and Caring Notes on Lynch and Lyons, ‘The Gendered Order of Caring’ in Ursula Barry (ed) Where Are We Now? New Feminist Perspectives on Women in Contemporary Ireland (Dublin: Tasc, 2008)
  5. 5. There are deep gender inequalities in the doing of care and love work that operate to the advantage of men. It is women’s unwaged labour and related domestic labour that frees men up to exercise control in the public sphere of politics, the economy and culture. … there is a moral imperative on women to do care work that does not apply equally to men ; a highly gendered moral code impels women to do the greater part of primary caring, with most believing they have no choice in the matter.
  6. 6. The Irish government collects data on unpaid caring within households in 1. the Census 2. the Quarterly Household Survey (QNHS). Within the Census, care is defined as being given by ‘persons aged 15yrs and over who provide regular unpaid help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability (including problems due to age). P.167-8
  7. 7. The way care is defined in the Census excludes what constitutes a major category of care work, that of the ordinary, everyday care of children (unless the child has a recognised disability). Data on the care of children is compiled in the QNHS, however, and is also available through the European Community Household Panel (ECPH) survey. The focus in all three is on the hours of work involved in caring so we do not know the nature and scope of the caring involved. P.168
  8. 8. According to the [2006] Census there are less than 150,000 people, 5 per cent of the adult population in unpaid care work (mostly with adults) of whom 61 per cent are women and 39 per cent are men. However, when we measure all types of caring activity, as has been done in the European Community household Panel (ECPH) we see that there are 1 million people who do caring who are not named in the census.
  9. 9. Even though it is no doubt unintentional, the failure to collect data on hours spent on child care work in the Census, means that child care, which is the major form of care work in Irish society, is no counted in terms of work hours. … women are almost five times as likely to work long care hours than is the case for men. Women spend much more time at care work than men, even when they are employed.
  10. 10. Over the past thirty years, despite their being essential to human life, neoliberal restructuring across the world has privatised, eroded and demolished our shared resources, and ushered in a ‘crisis of social reproduction.’ Feminist Fightback, ‘Cuts are a Feminist Issue’, Soundings (Dec 2011)