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Health Society

En Route to Recovery: Diversity and Vulnerability in Care Work During And after The Covid-19 Pandemic

‘En Route to Recovery’ (ER2R) will focus on employees who perform jobs fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic: providing individual care in both organisational and home settings.

Care workers’ positions were insecure prior to COVID-19, but the high demands placed on these employees during the pandemic meant increased workloads, virus exposure and stressors. This has had significant consequences on employees’ physical and mental health - worsened by their low salaries and the increased cost-of-living.

As a result, the social care sector is facing a deepening crisis in both recruitment and retention of staff, exacerbating a myriad of pre-existing problems for those on ‘the front lines’ of care provision.

Our work will specifically analyse how care workers in more vulnerable labour market positions (women, LGBTI2SQ people, and migrant status or minority ethnic people) are experiencing these COVID-19 issues in their role, and how they see a post-pandemic future. We will also focus on the cross-generational dimensions to these concerns by recruiting care workers aged under 25 and over 50.

This project will use an intersectional approach and longitudinal participatory research methods, including photovoice (where care workers take photos related to their lives and then discuss their significance) and sound-sourcing (where care workers keep audio diaries about their experiences or feelings). This will enable us to explore care workers’ unique experiences during this time, and uncover the impact of these various and coalescing factors within their individual lives.

Partners

We will be working closely with teams in South Africa, Finland, and Canada to complete a cross-cultural analysis within this project. These teams are conducting similar specific national projects, and we will collaborate throughout the research process: to explore overarching pressures for care work worldwide, and strengthen our findings and recommendations.

The key research questions for this international collaboration are:

  • What are the major challenges that care workers in vulnerable or precarious situations have encountered related to the pandemic, and what intersectional inequalities are amplified as people narrate their experiences in care work during the pandemic?
  • How could inequalities experienced by care workers in vulnerable or precarious situations be tackled in order to increase resilience, human sustainability and work wellbeing?
  • What care-related lessons can be found through narratives from different global contexts that can enable recovery from the pandemic and renewal of care provision?

Find out more about this partnership on the University of Helsinki blog.