Caring is Work: Meeting Social Care Needs in Lebanon
The evolution of economic incentives and social norms in Lebanon has created new challenges for women to balance work and family life. Underlying dynamics include changes in the demographic structure, the family structure, and the political and economic situation in the country. This paper investigates the perceptions and practices of paid and unpaid care provision. It examines the gender division of labour in the household in interface with women’s labour force participation, and the role of women migrant domestic workers in providing care given the deficit in social care provision. The study benefits from previous and on-going research by the authors, and the results of a survey involving various actors involved in caring, including 30 private nurseries, two private home-based care firms, five Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs), one non-profit nursing home for the elderly, one private children day care, 24 main Lebanese and non-Lebanese caregivers and seven related family members.In the absence of significant public or private initiatives to create employment opportunities, the study sheds light on the weaknesses in the labour market participation of women through an analysis of recent surveys. Due to their social roles as caregivers within the family and the lack of adequate jobs, the participation of women is not commensurate with their education levels. Social norms and expectations towards women’s work have been slow to evolve. Women continue to carry the burden of the unpaid care work regardless of their market activities. This paper was presented at the Ninth Mediterranean Research Meeting, Florence & Montecatini Terme, 25-28 March 2009, organised by the Mediterranean Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.