Thematic Panel 18: Labour market, working conditions and employment relations in the care sector: old and new challenges and new solutions in crisis contexts


Stefano Neri, University of Milan and Emmanuele Pavolini, University of Macerata

Over the last decades in Europe, care services, such as ECEC and LTC services, have experienced significant changes, including long-term social and demographic trends, austerity in public finance especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the structure of care service provision has significantly changed, strengthening trends toward privatisation and marketisation, although with relevant differences across European countries. Governments have tackled four contrasting tensions (a quadrilemma) concerning their ability: to provide and finance welfare services; to ensure universal coverage; to guarantee good service quality; and to safeguard decent and protected jobs. Labour issues are particularly important in the care sector: on the one hand, labour costs represent the main source of service expenditure; on the other hand, there is a relationship between job quality and service quality. Therefore, labour regulation, working conditions and employment relations have been put under considerable pressure, in order to make service provision sustainable in times of retrenchment. The Covid-19 emergency, which directly involved care services, and the current crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, with its effects on public spending and government priorities, have further increased pressures on the care sector, calling for urgent responses to the evolving social problems in European countries.

The session calls for cross-country comparisons or single-country papers, which firstly investigate recent changes and current transitions in labour markets and working conditions in the care sector, in Europe. Secondly, it calls for papers focusing on the role of social actors and employment relations institutions, at national, local or EU level, in arranging new solutions and practices, which are able to limit the risk of worsening in pay and working conditions by managing the tensions described in the quadrilemma. Papers using qualitative or quantitative methods are both welcome.