From the care crisis to care justice

What is our concern?

We are addressing the public with this manifesto because we are concerned about care for one another as the basis of the cohesion of society.  Care is in a profound crisis in many ways and in many areas. This crisis touches essential activities such as social support, education, nursing and eldercare, paid and unpaid work, in public and private institutions, in connection with health issues, child care, everyday assistance and much more – in short:  care for others, for the community and as a basis self-care, from day-to-day as well as in the various ups and downs of life. Care includes dedication and empathy as well as effort and trouble.  Nonetheless it is not merely the private concern of individuals but the responsibility of society as a whole.  Current debates address certain issues (e.g. the expansion of day care facilities, the health care crisis, burnout problems), but so far there are no fundamental solutions in sight. The scale of the crisis can only be seen if all areas are looked at together.

Key points of the care crisis

Since the 1970s our society has been fundamentally transformed into a flexible and globalized service and knowledge society.  But the organization of care tasks still reflects historical roots from the 19th century.
Care was
– women’s work,
– devalued as their supposedly natural task,
– made invisible in the private realm of the family or
– underfinanced and organized in the semi-professions of the social sector.

Meanwhile, there have been many changes, e.g.
– the increase of women’s and mothers‘  labor force participation,
– the growing importance of education,
– changed expectations as to the quality of relationships,
– longer life expectancy,
– increased complexity of health care provision,
– new care requirements and needs and much more.

Neither the current organization nor the quality of care provision fit the changes that have taken place in individual and societal conditions and aspirations. Care for others often results in fundamental stresses for carers and the resulting consequences and predicaments can hardly ever be dealt with individually. We are in the midst of an all-embracing care crisis that current neo-liberal policies are only intensifying.
One major difficulty is that the care crisis only appears in one place at a time, as women and men try to reconcile structural problems of society individually, often with enormous efforts.  Even Germany’s legal right to day care for children under the age of three that was introduced in August of 2013 was just a drop in the ocean. There are quality issues emerging, and the organization of paid work, public services and infrastructures continues to ignore care requirements.
The care crisis is also apparent in the professional sector.  Professionals in the fields of education, nursing and care work are often at the end of their tether as their working conditions are getting worse (work intensification, time pressure, staff shortages, unstable jobs).  At the same time, the demands made on them are constantly increasing (early childhood education in day care centers, patient activation). Also, a new shadow labor market of globalized jobs has emerged in private households: the Hungarian household helper, the nanny from Ecuador, the cleaner from Croatia.    The globalization of care is also visible in the recruitment of foreign care workers and in the export of eldercare to other countries, e.g. to Poland or Thailand. Care is not only a gender issue, it also

Alternatives to the care crisis

If we reorganize care and appreciate it more, there will be fewer problematic, fragile ‚solutions‘ that nobody really wants. Care tasks are still being taken on ‚somehow‘, but often at a high price that is usually being paid by overworked  mothers, exhausted family caregivers and nurses and pre-school teachers suffering from burnout. It is no longer a question of creating more stopgap solutions and unconnected measures here and there; we need good new comprehensive structural measures that focus on the interdependence between care, gender relations, the economy,  the organization of work, time structures and social justice. For good care structures are the foundation of a good life for everyone.  That is why many people in many places in Europe are currently thinking about new care solutions and discussing the access to good care as a human rights issue.
We want to develop alternative models of care and set processes of change in motion, in policies and in society, that focus on comprehensive ideas of justice and a good life.  To this end, political parties, private companies and associations need to begin to see care needs as a fundamental task of society as a whole as well as in a transnational perspective instead of continuing to focus on individual issues.  For care is being discussed in many different contexts, but so far there is no connection between these discourses; they remain in separate disciplines and political or normative arenas.  How does the organization of vocational training impact childcare? What are the consequences of the import of care professionals on the care for elderly and ill people in the carers’ home countries? How are collective bargaining policies connected to the current lack of pre-school teachers? How can people living alone deal with care tasks in their neighborhoods or be taken care of if they need care themselves?
We want to give caring and building relationships new meaning, without the connotation of traditional images of gender. The focus of caring practices in the private and the professional realm is the quality of the relationship. People depend on each other and need personal bonds. Care secures individual identity  and creates community cohesion.  We need a new social culture of care – one in which self-care and caring for others is a top priority for everyone, for people with or without children or parents to care for.  We need new ways of providing, recognizing, appreciating and paying for care as well as of organizing care tasks on the local, national and transnational level.

We want to move from the care crisis to care justice!

Initiative group

Prof. Dr. Margrit Brückner, Fachhochschule Frankfurt/M. (i.R.); Prof. Dr. Claudia Gather, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht, Berlin; Dr. Karin Jurczyk, Deutsches Jugendinstitut, München; Frank Luck, Universität Basel; Katharina Pühl, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin; Prof. Dr. Maria S. Rerrich, Hochschule München; Prof. Dr. Barbara Thiessen, Hochschule Landshut

First signatories (as of 10/19/2013)

Prof. Dr. Erna Appelt, Universität Innsbruck; Dr. Sabine Beckmann, Universität Bremen; Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Conradi, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart; Prof. Dr. Angelika Diezinger, Hochschule Esslingen; Prof. Dr. Ute Fischer, Hochschule Dortmund; Prof. em. Dr. Ute Gerhard, Universität Frankfurt/M.; Prof. Dr. Karin Gottschall, Universität Bremen; Prof. Dr. Cornelia Klinger, Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Wien; Dr. Anne-Christine Kunstmann, Universität Bielefeld; Dr. Sabine Plonz, Münster; Prof. Dr. Kirsten Scheiwe, Universität Hildesheim; Prof. Dr. Tom Schmid, Sozialökonomische Forschungsstelle, Wien; Dr. Marianne Schmidbaur, Universität Frankfurt/M.; Prof. em. Dr. Eva Senghaas-Knobloch, Universität Bremen