Growing Care Gaps, Shrinking State? Home Care Workers and The Fair Labor Standards Act

Authors: Caitlin Alcorn*, University of Washington, Kim England*, University of Washington
Topics: Gender, Political Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: The state, Home care, Women, Neoliberalism, Precarity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Home care work will be among the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. in the next ten years, linked to the growing numbers of people aged over 65. Located at the intersection of health care, social policy and the U.S. state, home care work is notable for its low pay, job insecurity, and irregular hours. As most of the funding comes from federal, state and local governments (although it is Medicaid and Medicare that are especially important), home care is a version of public sector employment. In broad terms, the contemporary state has retreated from funding and directly providing public services associated with social reproduction, but it has also introduced apparatus that increases market-oriented, for-profit delivery mechanisms. The legal and economic precarity of contemporary home care workers has roots in the New Deal and the passing of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. We focus on the FLSA and then trace forward to recent amendments that cover most (but not all) home care workers. We use our analysis as a vehicle for exploring American state intervention into, and apparent retreat from the social safety net and promoting collective well-being.

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