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Who Cares for Whom?

Can partner care by older couples pave the way to more gender equality?

The image of women as the only caregivers in families is being questioned as demographic evidence becomes more and more available. By exploring two national surveys, the Spanish Survey on Disability, Personal Autonomy and Dependency (EDAD) from 2008 and the 2002-2003 Level-of-Living Survey by Statistic’s Sweden, Antonio Abellan and colleagues looked at dynamics inside households. The author’s main focus lied on the household structure, i.e. intergenerational, single- or couples-only living arrangements, and on the identification of the caregiver for each household type.

Results indicate that, overall, women are more represented than men as caregivers in Spain in comparison to Sweden. As female care is overrepresented outside of partnerships, the authors interpret this pattern as being caused mostly by different household structures, and not by gender roles and lifestyles in both countries.  

The authors suggest that caregiving is going to be increasingly gender equal in the future. Yet, it is also noted that public services should be more accessible for partnered caregivers in both Spain and Sweden, as couples are less likely to make use of them. However, changes in the patterns of intergenerational care seem to be less attributed to the expansion in public services and more so to the increasing amount of partner care.


Original article: Abellan, Antonio et al. (2017): Partner care, gender equality, and ageing in Spain and Sweden. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life 11(1): 1-21.