Globalizing Welfare
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Globalizing Welfare

An Evolving Asian-European Dialogue

Edited by Stein Kuhnle, Per Selle and Sven E.O. Hort

From the welfare state’s origins in Europe, the idea of human welfare being organized through a civilized, institutionalized and uncorrupt state has caught the imagination of social activists and policy-makers around the world. This is particularly influential where rapid social development is taking place amidst growing social and gender inequality. This book reflects on the growing academic and political interest in global social policy and ‘globalizing welfare’, and pays particular attention to developments in Northern European and North-East Asian countries.
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Chapter 7: Who are caregivers for the elderly? The role of women in the welfare state in the Nordic and the East Asian countries

Yoko Otsuka and Lingyan Chen


This chapter examines the role of women as caregivers during the transitional policy period where the welfare state is assuming the care of the elderly. The authors compare the relationships between care workers and family caregivers in Denmark, Japan and China from a social network perspective. It is common in the three countries that mostly women take on the role of outsourced care for the elderly, but the role of women has changed in the process of the ageing population and rapid social transformation. In Denmark, the status of women as independent care workers is slightly at risk due to the approaching super-aged society, although family care for the elderly is not expected under the law. In China, elder care is the responsibility of the family, and the private employment of a residential housekeeper is the solution of most families, but gender issues in family care have not been clearly resolved. In Japan, a chronic shortage of care workers means that caregiving has been regarded as the work of dependent housewives in the family, as well as in the labour market. The shortage imposes a heavy burden on most women, but also on men in the family. The role of women as caregivers for the elderly remains ambiguous, straddling the public and private spheres, regardless of whether the country is a developed or a developing welfare state.

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