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Civil society organizations and the politics of long-term care reform: coalitions and multiple inequalities

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Inequalities as barriers to inclusive long-term care

Pioneering analysis has highlighted the impact of gender and other social inequalities on long-term care and underlined the importance of giving civil society a voice in developing welfare policy.

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Demographic ageing has brought to light the importance of long-term care, and forced the issue onto the political agenda. “Long-term care is also a gendered space,” notes AGenDA project principal investigator Rossella Ciccia, associate professor of social policy at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. “Women provide the majority of care to frail elderly people, both in the home and in professional settings. Women are also more likely to live longer than men and to be in need of receiving care.” Addressing this issue of ageing and gender inequality is challenging. Building political alliances between women, professional caregivers, migrant caregivers and people in care faces several obstacles. Migrant caregivers for example have very little political clout. There is also a lack of political willingness to invest in improving existing long-term systems. “Designing fair and inclusive long-term care systems is one of the greatest challenges facing Europe,” says Ciccia. “The COVID-19 crisis has only helped to make this issue all the more apparent across Europe.”

Civil society voices

The AGenDA project, undertaken with the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme and coordinated by the Scuola Normale Superiore in Italy, was launched at the beginning of 2018 to better understand the political obstacles to building sustainable, long-term care systems. To achieve this objective, the project developed a framework that brings together research on social movements and intersectionality, which analyses the interconnected and overlapping nature of social categories such as race, class and gender, and social policy reform. As part of this, a series of events was held and involved academics and NGOs as well as the general public. For Ciccia, this was a critical element of the project. “I am very proud of the events we organised,” she adds. “These included an international conference on feminist solidarity and the politics of alliances, as well as a workshop on feminist practices and collective struggles.” These events played a key role, not only in building connections, but also in spreading some of the project’s ideas. Ciccia was awarded the Emma Goldman award in February 2020, in recognition of AGenDA’s contribution to knowledge on gender and inequalities in Europe.

New perspectives on care

The AGenDA project successfully brought together a range of perspectives on developing inclusive and sustainable social care systems. It has opened the door to new ways of looking at care policies, by putting the connection between gender and other inequalities at the forefront. “This analytical framework takes into account intersectionality and moves beyond institutional bias when studying the welfare state,” explains Ciccia. “It gives civil society organisations a voice when analysing political reform.” The framework developed during the project is now available as a tool, to help other researchers fully take into account the multidimensionality of long-term care policies. Ciccia hopes that the tool will be used to promote dialogue across differences, and to help identify the obstacles that impede meaningful political coalitions around care issues. “I am still working on a number of scientific publications,” she continues. “I intend to further disseminate the project’s results among non-academic audiences, and to use the Emma Goldman award prize to further develop AGenDA’s approach to the study of migrant care work.”


AGenDA, gender, inequalities, care, welfare, intersectionality, women, feminist, COVID-19

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