Stream 7: Care in times of flexible employment

Julia Höppner and Thordis Reimer

In the last three decades, standard employment has been steadily eroding, both in terms of an increase in flexible work arrangements and a flexibilisation of employment contracts that can be considered as the two sides of flexible employment. However, there are great differences in the degree of these developments between countries regarding the work-family relationship. The call for flexible work arrangements was a consequence of women’s increasing labour market participation and the associated changes in ‘gender arrangements’ (Pfau-Effinger, 1998). In this context, women’s ‘second shift’ (Hochschild & Machung, 1989) and the ‘crisis of care’ (Fraser, 2016) are discussed, meanwhile also affecting men in double-earner families.

Many transnational organizations like the OECD or the European Commission have discussed flexible work criteria that are recognized as facilitators of sustainable reconciliation of work and care. This includes e.g. part-time employment, flexible working hours or working from home. Whereas these possibilities are meant to enhance the reconciliation of work and care, the flexibilisation of employment contracts provides high insecurities for employees (e.g. ILO, 2016) which might contain special pressure for workers with care obligations.

Flexible employment is directly linked to the organisation and the quality of unpaid care. Welfare states define to a great extent the design and the limits of flexible employment, both regarding employment legislation and welfare institutions like care services for children and elder persons or parental-leave legislation. With this stream, we want to explore the consequences of flexible employment on unpaid care and the role of welfare states in this regard. We invite theoretical and empirical papers. We welcome papers comparing different countries and/or regions as well as analyses on the national level. Possible research topics are:

What are benefits and drawbacks of flexible employment on a) work-family arrangements and b) the supply of unpaid care?

How do welfare state institutions that shape possibilities of flexible employment (e.g. parental-leave policies) influence work-care arrangements?

How does employment legislation with regard to flexible work contracts (e.g. fixed-term employment) influence workcare arrangements?

How does flexible employment influence employment and care biographies?

How does flexible employment affect social inequality regarding unpaid care?

Are there differences in flexible work arrangements between specific groups of the labour force?

What are gender-specific consequences of the shift towards flexible employment?