Personal and Household Services (PHS) and the Role of Technical Assistance

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.3.03 (Tower Two)
Werner Eichhorst, N/A, Germany; IZA; IZA, Bonn, Germany
Annette Angermann, VDIVDE-IT, Berlin, Germany
Personal and household services (PHS) are of growing importance in ageing societies in many respects. First, given increased female labor force participation and low birth rates while population is ageing the demand for services provided by formal, external providers grows whereas capacities of informal services provided by relatives shrink. At the same time, existing welfare state and fiscal arrangements can only facilitate a limited amount of these services within given budgets. While PHS have a huge potential for the creation of formal jobs, cost pressures faced by welfare states and governments tends to be associated with major problems in maintaining a sufficient supply of qualified workers in care occupations as working conditions in these jobs tend to be of very limited attractiveness. Therefore, unless fundamental changes in the funding, training and employment arrangements are implemented there may be a persistent shortage of labor in PHS. This might have negative repercussions on those in need of PHS, on informal care providers in employment -putting their continued employment, work-life balance or health at risk- and as well on staff in outpatient and institutional care providers.

Here, technical assistance could come in. There has been notable progress in the development of assistance systems in private households, also in the area of PHS and eldercare as well as to support staff and patients in institutional care. Technological assistance in the area of PHS, in particular with respect to older people, can enhance the productivity of PHS providers or complement personal and household services rendered by human staff, by limiting the demand for labor in these occupations. This might ease the burden of the service providers, foster their job retention and moreover reduce the fiscal pressure on care arrangements. However, technological solutions and human-machine interaction may not be appropriate and acceptable by all users. Different needs of support have to be taken into account, the used supporting technology should be favored by the users and the technical support should be human centered as well. Beside the ethical question “How much technological assistance is acceptable for services users and service providers?” there are also legal and social issues to discuss. As there is now some evidence available to technical solutions, we can take case studies on particular types of technical assistance to assess the actual potential and limits of technological solutions in PHS. We identify factors that are conducive or detrimental to the day-to-day use of technical assistance.