Combining work and elderly care: a comparative analysis of care arrangements in Italy and Norway

  • Kaja Kvaale
  • Manuela Naldini


The greying population has for some time been an important issue in European countries since it implies change and development for national and international social policies to be able to care for its increasing elderly population. In my thesis I discuss and analyze the variation and similarities between two diverse welfare states, namely Italy and Norway, and how the issue of care is proposed or resolved by social policies and the families themselves. Italy is little developed in formal social care and instead seeks to help its inhabitants through cash allowances, while Norway has a more comprehensive family policy in addition to extended long term care provided by the state. Since Italy is known to be a familiaristic welfare state where informal and especially female engagement is crucial for elderly care and Norway is considered a more gender equal state and structuring the care more formally, I analyze if these pre-assumptions exist in real life situations and how the families arrange and cope in their everyday life of working and caring for and elderly parent.
Through a qualitative analysis in the two countries, I explore the respondents’ cultural and personal attitudes and norms concerning who and how the care should be performed and how it is to be organized side by side with work and family life. My results imply that families in the two countries spend almost the same amount of time to care for their parents and they show similar attitudes and feelings connected to the care situation. However, my analysis show also that issues surrounding whom and how tasks are performed vary according to traditions, culture and welfare strategies in the two countries and create two diverse paths of care arrangements. In both countries there has been a decline in informal (unpaid) care, but due to the lack of formal services in Italy combined with their cash for care scheme, there has been an increased growth of market services provided by migrant women hired by families in the grey market. Norwegian respondents on the other side rely heavily on formal care services, but need to supplement these services informally and express concern for the in-humane or standarized way of formal care institutions. On the other hand, the Norwegian respondents receive more direct guidance and help from the social system, while the Italian respondents often struggle to find a secure and adequate care arrangement for their parents and themselves.

Keywords: Welfare state, gender, family, formal and informal care, employment, Italy, Norway