The coronavirus pandemic has exposed existing deep cracks in the disability and aged care sectors to increased public scrutiny. This chapter will first explore how various structural features of the disability and aged care systems created heightened risk for care recipients and care workers to adverse effects of the pandemic. These include the increased risk of contagion associated with a highly mobile care workforce and the close living conditions in congregate care settings, increased social isolation for people with disability and older people, and increased risk of job or income loss for care workers. The chapter will then discuss the competing interests and forces shaping the care economy into the future. In Australia, as in many other countries, the size of the care economy will increase exponentially over the next few decades due to population ageing and the expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The aged care and disability support workforces, already feminised and low-paid, face increasingly insecure employment arrangements as a by-product of the consumer-directed and user-pays trends within these sectors. The pandemic has allowed these issues to be framed as public health concerns and issues of equity for support workers whose skills and importance to the functioning of society are chronically undervalued. Initially invisible within the ill-defined category of “essential workers” when the pandemic first unfolded, there is increasing recognition that care workers provide critical services to people whose lives and livelihoods depend on this support. Whether workers will continue to accept existing low pay and insecure conditions and whether government and society should expect them to, will be critical questions for the future quality and sustainability of these essential support services.
|Title of host publication
|Covid-19 and the Global Political Economy: Crises in the 21st Century
|Tim Di Muzio, Matt Dow
|Place of Publication
|Published - 2022