The Human Cost of Caring
Primary Investigators: Professor Jean Grugel (Politics, University of York), Professor Shirin Rai (The University of Warwick)
External Collaborators: UNICEF-Innocenti Centre, Florence
Funder: Department of Politics, University of York
Are children and young people ‘harmed’ by taking on regular care work in the home? If so, what does that harm consist of and who is responsible for alleviating it? This project asks those questions in Mexico City. It explores the experiences of a small group of children who care for their siblings, alongside other domestic and/or work outside the home and examines the attitudes of professionals from government and NGOs who are charged with ‘supporting’ vulnerable children and young people towards them. The project identifies a gulf between the needs and experiences of the children, on the one hand, and the understandings of social policy practitioners.
This research speaks directly to feminist debates on care and unpaid work. It also highly policy-relevant in that gaining a thorough understanding of the complexities around care and domestic work will be crucial for achieving the SDGs and enhancing the welfare and inclusive development of developing countries. Specifically, the issue of care and domestic work speaks directly to the SDG 5.4, which calls for recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of adequate quality services and "the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate".
This research is conceived as a pilot study. As such, the data are far from conclusive. A striking finding, however, was that programme workers did not always understand why and how the gendered political economy of care work In turn, this created barriers that make it hard to assess in a detailed way the costs of care work and the nature of harm children sustain.