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Problems For Caregivers In Precarious Work Were Exacerbated By Covid-19 Pandemic

The covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated some problems in the Czech labour market, most of all those concerning women caring for family members, according to new research from the SYRI National Institute. More often than other groups of workers, they ended up in the vicious market of so-called precarious work, which includes short-term jobs, low wages and general job insecurity. 

The state failed in this regard, because it tied the main measures for caregivers to persons employed in standard employment, which contributed to the devaluation of the work of caregivers, said Radka Dudová, a researcher at SYRI. Last year, 6.2% of all employed people in the Czech Republic were working on a fixed-term basis, 8% were part-time workers and 13.9% were self-employed, many of whom are precariously employed carers.

“Although the state introduced the “extraordinary nursing allowance”, quite a few caregivers were excluded from it, because the system mainly counts on standard hours. This led to uncertainty and, logically, to a loss of self-confidence. Caregivers then adapted their preferences to the system and lowered their aspirations. Since their bargaining power is low, they accepted insecure, low-skilled and poorly paid forms of work,” said Dudová.

Precarious work is characterised by short duration, low wages, lack of control over working conditions and lack of social protection. In the Czech Republic, it typically concerns mothers of young children. The system, whose shortcomings have been exacerbated by the pandemic, brings economic stress, unstable housing, poor health, low self-esteem and low resilience to those working in this way, according to the research. “All of this is subsequently reflected in the way they can provide care,” said Dudová.

As a result, people with caring responsibilities are not sufficiently valued for their reproductive work (including domestic labour and caregiving), as entitlement to many social benefits is conditional on social insurance tied to standard employment. At the same time, the responsibility of care makes it difficult for them to find a standard job, which puts them at a further disadvantage. Due to lower earnings and an insecure employment situation, they subsequently take on a greater share of the reproductive work in the household when necessary than other family members who have a stable income.

Primary caregivers then need the flexibility provided by non-standard forms of employment all the more. As a result, they are less likely to work in other types of jobs because they are perceived as risky employees. “So it’s a vicious circle,” says Dudová. This uncertainty then spills over from the labour market into other areas of their lives, including the ability to provide care.

In order to cope with stigmatisation and maintain a positive identity, caregivers perform so-called moral work, which, however, leads to consolidating their poor position on the labour market. “They simply do not make demands on employers, and accept discrimination. They regard care as the highest value and subordinate paid work to it. They also accept so-called informal work because, for example, for single mothers, it is sometimes the only way to support their children,” said Dudová.

According to the researcher, the state should amend the legislation so that employers have to bear part of the costs of the reproductive workforce (monitoring DPP and DPČ, inclusion in social insurance). It would also help to adjust the tax system and the benefit system so that they do not force parents to work informally. Another recommendation is to support caregivers, for example by supporting children’s education, providing free lunches or psychological counselling.

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