Bonus or burden? Care work, inequality, and job satisfaction in eighteen European countries

2019-10-16T12:10:58Z (GMT) by Naomi Lightman Anthony Kevins
While existing research highlights the feminized and devalued nature of care work, the relationship between care work and job satisfaction has not yet been tested cross-nationally. England (2005) outlines two theoretical frameworks that guide our thinking about this potential relationship: the Prisoner of Love framework suggests that, notwithstanding the explicit and implicit costs of care work, the intrinsic benefits of caring provide ‘psychic income’ and lead to greater job satisfaction; while the Commodification of Emotion framework suggests, instead, that care work generates additional stress and/or alienation for the worker, thereby resulting in lower job satisfaction. This article empirically tests this relationship in 18 countries using European Social Survey data and incorporating national-level factors. The results provide support for the Prisoner of Love framework, with variation based on the degree of professionalization. Although we find broad evidence of a care work-job satisfaction bonus, non-professional care workers experience a substantively larger bonus than their paraprofessional and professional counterparts. However, national-level economic inequality is also found to play a role in this relationship, with higher inequality amplifying the care work bonus at all levels of professionalization.