Nanny care in Sweden: The inequalities of everyday doings of care

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Political initiatives such as tax deductions for domestic services, including nannies, has, together with a growing au pair market paved the way for new possibilities of organizing child care in Sweden. This affects the everyday ‘local care loops’ for the upper middle-class families purchasing the services; the logistics of solving the work/family dilemma is changed through the possibility of hiring of cheap female – and often migrant – care workers.

In this paper we analyse practice of care and family (Morgan 1996, 2011) in families who employ nannies and au pairs. Taking our point of departure in the narratives of all the participating actors – nannies/au pairs (n=26), parents (n=29) and children receiving care (n=19) – we show how this ‘doing of family’ is reproducing inequalities between families: the new local care loops enable a possibility for some – well-off – parents to realize the (highly valued) ideals of gender-equality and ‘good and stress-free parenting’. We also show how this reproduces inequalities within families. The narratives of everyday care situations told by nannies, au pairs and children entail evidence of invisible and complex ‘sentient’ care activities (Mason 1996; Tronto 1998) that diverge remarkably from the explicit characterizing of the work as easy and independent. This discrepancy makes nanny/au pair work into an exploitation of gendered care doings, similar to the care performed in families traditionally, by wives and mothers (DeVault 1991), but now obscured by the nanny/au pairs’ subordinate status. In conclusion, classed, gendered and ethnic inequalities are, characterizing the new ‘local care loops’ being encouraged and enabled in Sweden. The driving forces are to be found on a macro level, in processes of globalization, and in political and policy changes, but the consequences are detectable in everyday interactions in the micro-settings of the home.
Original languageSwedish
Pages (from-to)614-626
JournalJournal of European Social Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

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