Resisting Inequality in Care Regimes? Collective Actions and Regulatory Response to Care Work in New Zealand
New Zealand finally introduced paid parental leave in 2004 (Ravenswood, 2008), however paid parental leave strongly privileges those in permanent and regular paid work. It also prioritises paid work over unpaid care work. At the same time, paid care work has been de-valued, with hourly wages for non-professional carers tracking around the minimum wage for several decades. This creates a hierarchy of paid care work over unpaid (family) care work, both of which are under-valued, and continues the same old debates of what is a woman’s role that preceded the first maternity leave legislation.
There are signs of resistance to these care regimes in New Zealand. In the last few years both unions and civil society organisations have taken legal action that challenges the inequality created by gendered perceptions of care work (both paid and unpaid).
This paper looks at three recent landmark regulatory changes in New Zealand resulting from union and civil society organisation collective action in paid and unpaid care work:
- A legal decision under the Equal Pay Act 1972, in residential aged care work.
- Policy changes to address payment for work travel time of community based paid carers.
- The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Act (No 2) 2013 allowing payment to family carers (previously unpaid) of their adult disabled children.
These regulatory changes have resulted in potential and actual improvements in working conditions, but also have challenged gendered perceptions of both informal and formal care. This paper examines these three changes, questioning:
- Who is impacted by inequality in care regimes?
- How and when have union and civil society organisations resisted the inequality?
- What has been the regulatory response to these challenges?
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