Why Capitalism and Care – Like oil and water should never mix.

digital 4

The idea of turning ‘care’ into a commodity that can be bought and sold instead of acknowledged as a virtue of the human spirit that can be given willingly, is not a new one.

We’ve long paid doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, support workers and a whole host of others who belong to the so-called ‘Caring Professions’ for years.

But what’s changed in the last few decades are the amount of people now being employed in what has come to be known as the ‘Care Industry’.

And by this I mean workers who are not required to undergo years and years of study on how to ‘care’ for others, but instead workers who are simply doing a job with the label ‘Care’ stacked in front of it.

Such as those you’d find working in homes for the elderly or providing in home ‘care’ or assistance for those who are frail, ill or disabled within their own homes.

Once upon a time these workers may simply have been called ‘Domestic Help’, ‘Home Helpers’, ‘In Home Support Workers’ or Aides.

Today these same workers are called ‘Carers’.

Yet the thing is, despite the title they’ve been given, these workers are not carers because in reality, they do not truly care either for or about the people they are assisting once their allotted work period is over.

In other words, they are just like any other worker within a capitalist society in which every action that can possibly be bought and sold as labor is bought and sold, no matter the job description placed in front of it.

So once they are off the clock, just like any other worker, their job is done.

This means, in this case, that their allotted time for ‘caring’ is also done.

So employed ‘Carers’, in this sense, can be seen as merely workers who are performing a job and being paid for their time. Just like everyone else in the working world.

But people tend to forget this fact as soon as the term ‘carer’ is included within the job title.

Employed ‘Carers’ are often treated by others as if they are some kind of Florence Nightingale and the reason for this is quite simply to be found in the use of the term ‘carer’.

The word ‘Carer’ conjures up images of nurturing and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Its use implies therefore that these workers not only do the practical things that are required but that they also actually care about the people they are working for in a way that means they are putting themselves out and going above and beyond the call of duty to help others.

Yet the truth is, if they weren’t being paid, they wouldn’t attend their work.

In other words, if they weren’t being paid to ‘care’ (i.e. do their jobs), then they wouldn’t ‘care’ (do their jobs).

So, in this instance the word ‘care’ is being used as euphemism for paid work assisting others.

Now where is the genuine care in that?

In fact where is the ‘care’ to be found within any of the so-called ‘care industries’?

Where’s the honest and genuine dedication toward making another’s life better or easier gone too?

These days, if you can’t pay for ‘care’, then you don’t get any ‘care’.

Unless of course that ‘care’ is being provided free of charge by a loving family member who genuinely wants the best for the relative they are caring for.

To my mind families are the real ‘carers’.

They don’t get paid and they never clock off.

They are the ones who share smiles and shed tears with their loved ones.

They live each and every trial of their loved ones life right alongside them.

They are never off call.

And yet, family members who willingly and lovingly assume the role of carers are routinely treated as if the time and energy they spend in ‘caring’ for a loved one is, in capitalist terms, worthless, for it has no immediate monetary value attached to it.

Familial carers do not get paid, not in the way that ‘employed carers’ do. If they are lucky they may receive some small stipend from the government, which is more often than not viewed by others as an unearned welfare payment, and yet these familial carers are the only ones who are ‘carers’ in the true sense of the word.

These true Carers find themselves caught up within a capitalistic system that devalues any work performed without monetary payment, whilst at the same time sets about promoting and deriving profits from the pseudo ‘care industry’ they’ve created.

One that has nothing what so ever to do with actually, genuinely caring for the wellbeing of others, and everything to do with caring only about their profit margins bottom line.

This isn’t ‘care’, it’s a capitalist industry that’s been artfully created by misappropriating a once genuine concept and turning it into yet another commodity to be bought and sold.

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9 thoughts on “Why Capitalism and Care – Like oil and water should never mix.

  1. Totally agree.
    My daughter refused to apply for a job as a “carer” at an old people’s home during vacacines because she said she did not/could not care for these people&it would be hypocritical to do the job. Though i know many people who do because its seen as easy work.
    Great post X

  2. What a great post! My family is distant and rather hostile. Verbally. Distant. They think I’m worthless because of my low income. My “carer” does nothing but talk on the phone, and tell me he’ll do things he doesn’t do. I’ve had “advocate” after “advocate” lately do the same thing. Despite knowing about my serious depression. They get paid either way. The building my apartment is in has been deemed unlivable. Wich is where the “advocates” come in. I’m getting so tired of it. My family tells me let the place where my “carer” works do anything by way of “helping” me. There is an Autism vacuum here. Where the disorder seems to…I don’t know, get swallowed up or disappear. And everything is about kids with Autism these days. Thanks for writing this. this. I am going to share it. Oh yeah, it was my “career” who moved me in here.

  3. Sorry, having been an “Assistant in nursing”, I cannot agree with this article. You do get some people who don’t care, but you get a lot of family carers who also don’t care much for the person they ‘care’ for. Most AINs and PCWs (personal care workers), genuine care about their clients. Some visit on their days off, bring in little gifts, hang around after their shifts to help out longer etc. I still go back and visit residents and staff at the nursing home where I worked at for several years. Sadly many of the residents I knew have passed away, but I catch up with what has happened to them etc. So while “care” is not a requirement of the job, most paid carers do care greatly.

    1. I think it is wrong to say that family carers don’t care for the relative they are caring for. Perhaps what you are perceiving as a lack of care on their part, is simply ‘burn out’. Could you imagine the doing your job 24/7 with no set meal breaks, no time off and certainly no hope of holidays let alone personal sick days? Despite all of the work that they consistently do and the difficult circumstances they face, familial carers do not get paid for their efforts. So the question still remains, would you ‘care’ enough for the people you work with to do that same level of work, 24/7 without the pay? At an extremely basic level the answer would most likely have to be no, if for no other reason than life in a capitalist society requires one to have an income. Visiting a client on a day off or keeping up with what’s going in their lives, whilst highly commendable, is a vastly different proposition to caring for a loved one 24/7 without any of the respect or financial benefits afforded to paid ‘carers’. No matter which way you look at it, people who are paid to help, assist or look after others, do not automatically deserve the title of ‘carers’ . They are workers performing a job for monetary reward and as such their job title should reflect this and they should not be called ‘carers’.

  4. It is truly a shame if the care given by family members is devalued. Regarding paid caregivers, though, the reality is that people need to live, and therefore they need to be paid for whatever useful thing they spend their time doing. Also, from what I’ve seen of the caregivers at the assisted living facility where my father-in-law lives, I believe that many of them do care about their charges. Yes it it’s a job for them, but I think they’ve found a job that they find rewarding and even enjoy at some level. They are doing something that my husband and I don’t feel able to do. (My father-in-law has dementia). I’m very grateful for them – how sunny and helpful they always are and how they step in to deal with the difficult situations that sometimes arise. If they go home at the end of their shift and can leave all those burdens behind them and rest and recharge for the next shift, I don’t begrudge them that at all.

    I’m really impressed with family members who do this “work,” too. I hope it is a labor of love for them, but I would not fault them if they sometimes just found it a burden and needed to take a break.

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