Home Care Workers’ Skills in the Context of Task Shifting: Complexities in Care Work
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Task shifting, which involves the transfer of care work from regulated health-care professionals to home care workers (HCWs), is a strategy to ensure the efficient delivery of home care services in Canada and internationally. Using a feminist political economy approach, this paper explores the effects of task shifting on HCWs' skills. Task shifting may be understood as a form of downward substitution-and an effort to increase control over workers while minimizing costs-as some of health-care professionals' responsibilities are divided into simpler tasks and transferred to HCWs. Our interviews with 46 home health-care providers in Ontario, which focused explicitly on HCWs' role in care provision, problematize the belief that "low skilled" care workers have little control over their work. HCWs' skills become more complex when they do transferred tasks, and HCWs sometimes gain greater control over their work. This results in increased autonomy and mastery for many HCWs. In turn, this serves to reinforce the intrinsic rewards of care work, despite the fact that it is low paid and undervalued work.
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