transform! europe, in collaboration with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, is launching a Call for tenders for a research study on the financialisation of long-term elder care. The aim of the study is not only to provide an outlook on the current situation in specific countries but also to offer perspectives on possible counterstrategies to the ongoing process of financialisation of long-term elder care.
The Context: Low birth rates and increasing life expectancy are leading to an ageing population in the EU. Eurostat data from February this year show that more than a fifth (21.1%) of the EU population was aged 65 and over, and this proportion is increasing in all Member States. According to Eurostat projections, the share of people aged 65 and over will exceed 25% by 2040, while the older population itself will continue to age (the share of people aged 80 and over will more than double by 2100).
The triumph of neoliberalism in the 1990s has had a major impact on long-term care: many of the long-term care facilities and services that were once provided by the public sector are now in the hands of the private sector. The negative consequences for the quality, accessibility, and affordability of long-term care and the working conditions of care workers were bluntly exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this demographic transition scenario, the EU institutions have already acknowledged the resulting challenges. Importantly, the President of the Commission proposed a ‘European Care Strategy‘ in her 2021 State of the Union speech, which was presented to the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and the Committee of the Regions in September 2022. In this Communication, the Commission recognises that “long-term care services are often unresponsive to needs, unaffordable and do not respect high levels of quality (…).” The question of accessibility and affordability of quality long-term care was the subject of a Council Recommendation adopted by the Council in December last year. On the other hand, the European Parliament has already adopted a proposal from the EESC to set up an observatory on care for the elderly “to collect data, compare good practices between state models, identify structural weaknesses and provide technical support to facilitate the adoption of EU policy guidelines.” To date, and to the best of our knowledge, no such observatory exists. More significantly, however, this EESC initiative acknowledges that elderly care has become a commodity (“COVID-19 has revealed the insufficient supply (…) of high-quality long-term care for all older people at prices that are affordable for a large number of Europeans and their families.
Care work and the conditions of care workers gained centrality with the publication of the International Labour Organisation’s report ‘Care Work and Care Jobs – For the Future of Decent Work‘ (2018), which strongly highlights the feminised, migrant, and informal or precarious character of care work worldwide. The European Care Strategy also acknowledges that in the EU “working conditions in the care sector are difficult, and wages are low.” The labour situation of care workers in the EU is further recognised by the above-mentioned EESC initiative, with one of the key points being that “the EESC believes that the issue of EU care workers and all related aspects, including the right to collective bargaining, should be incorporated into European social dialogue.”
The diversity of care models across Member States is well-documented in various publications (e.g. Long-term Care Report – Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities in an Ageing Society), yet these fail to specifically address or obscure the impact of the growing privatisation and financialisation of long-term care on the current care crisis.
Developments on the impact of privatisation and financialisation of the care sector have been highlighted by an impressive journalistic research work, Grey Gold – The Billion Euro Business of Elder Care, by the consortium of journalists Investigative Europe (2021):
- Increased privatisation in EU countries is accompanied by staff shortages and poor quality of care, while public investment in care is flowing to transnational corporations;
- For-profit companies are becoming increasingly important as part of the social infrastructure, while financial investors are entering the care market on a large scale.
Market entry in the care sector, and in particular in long-term elder care, has taken place gradually and in different ways in different Member States.
The study we are launching is intended to fulfil two main objectives. On the one hand, the study aims to provide an exemplary overview of the financialisation of care for the elderly in several different countries to provide a useful tool for the debate on the privatisation and financialisation of care and, ultimately, on the privatisation and financialisation of public services in general. On the other hand, the study also aims to map alternative policies that have been successfully designed and implemented, either by the public or the social sector, as examples of developing social alternatives of solidarity in Europe.
With this study, we seek to address illustrative cases from EU countries. These should be geographically dispersed across the EU and representative of the research questions we wish to address (preferably all).
Proposed Research Topics:
- Financialisation of elder long-term sector in selected countries
- Current and past financing of elder care in terms of GDP; non-profit vs. for-profit share
- Developing trends in transfers from the public to the private and financial sectors over the last decades and their implications; which paths have been followed by specific countries and why (own governments’ political will; structural reforms imposed by the EU; other)?
- What are the current shortcomings of long-term care systems and how have these shortcomings evolved, focusing on accessibility, availability, and affordability?
- Financialisation of long-term care for the elderly and its impact on the labour force and working conditions, including
- Types of care provision and their impact on the workforce
- Characterisation of the workforce (gender, migrant background, educational levels, and skills)
- Formal working conditions, working hours, types of contracts, and employees
- Forms of organisation of the care workforce
- Successful strategies to counteract the financialisation of the care sector
- Successful strategies and models of public or non-profit provision of long-term care for the elderly (good practice cases)
- Examples of organising care workers and struggles against the privatisation and financialisation of care for the elderly
- Involvement of grassroots movements, trade unions, progressive political parties, etc. in promoting alternative care strategies.
- Academic background in social sciences with a specific focus on care
- Fluency in English
- Identification with the values and objectives of transform! europe and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation
- Application deadline: 15 December 2023
- Notification of acceptance: 18 December 2023
- The research will be carried out in January and February 2024, and the final study will be submitted by 15 March 2024.
Conditions of Application
- CV and biography
- Letter of motivation
- Relevant publications To be sent by email to Tatiana Moutinho (email@example.com) and Cornelia Hildebrandt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The remuneration is €5,000, to be paid in one installment.
The authors are responsible for any taxes that might be levied on the honorarium.
transform! europe is a network of 38 European organisations from 22 countries active in the field of political education and critical scientific analysis and is the recognized political foundation of the Party of the European Left (EL). This cooperative project of independent non-profit organisations, institutes, foundations, and individuals aims to use its work to contribute to peaceful relations between peoples and a transformation of the contemporary world.
transform! europe is partly funded by a grant from the European Parliament. The content is the sole responsibility of the author(s), and the European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained in this publication.
The Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation is a member organisation of transform! europe, and is an international non-profit organisation for political education affiliated with the German Left Party. It is a discussion forum for progressive political alternatives and a centre for critical thinking and research in Germany and around the world. The Brussels office operates as a think tank reflecting on European and international issues affecting contemporary society.