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The care crisis in times of the pandemic

An analysis of the structural problems in the healthcare sector and paid and unpaid care work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Krankenhausmitarbeiterin versorgt eine Patientin

Carers are often under enormous pressure. Photo: iStock, Tempura

The research project "Double Fragility: The Care Crisis in times of the Pandemic", funded by the VolkswagenStiftung,is approaching its fruitful end. Nevertheless, the topic under investigation retains its urgency and its firm place in social discourse. The study, in which Helene Schiffbaenker and David William Walker from the POLICIES Institute, together with the researchers Alexandra Scheele and Greta Wienkamp from the University of Bielefeld as well as Nadja Bergmann and Claudia Sorger from were involved, focuses on the healthcare sector in Germany and Austria and sheds light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the already fragile structures under which care work is carried out.

The pandemic has exposed and dramatically exacerbated the weaknesses in the care sector. The enormous pressure faced by nursing staff who had caring responsibilities alongside their paid work became particularly clear. Our interviews with hospital employees clearly revealed the many challenges facing the sector. For many employees, there was an inner conflict between their dedication to their work and the structural problems in the healthcare sector. Although carers received token recognition and bonus payments, some felt inadequately valued.

Those concerned demand change

Our research shows that the care crisis in the healthcare sector is accompanied by a reproduction crisis: Paid care work does not always meet the demands of carers and patients alike, while unpaid private care obligations can no longer be met satisfactorily either. The respondents in our study therefore call for structural changes, a systemic change that goes hand in hand with a personnel offensive, improved working conditions and relief in the private sphere.

“Discussions continue and it is indispensable that we keep the urgency of these matters in the public consciousness. Only through ongoing dialogue and decisive action can we advance the necessary changes,” said the study authors.

Our publications on the subject


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