Giving Care

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In another report of the Social and Cultural Planning Organisation

(1994a) informal care is conceived as an aspect of the broader concept of

social support, in particular the instrumental component of it. Informal

care comprises practical tasks or concrete services: help with personal or

household care. In this study emotional care is not regarded as a part of

informal care. The recipients are peoplewho are requiring care according

to certain objective criteria that relate to chronic illness or old age. Informal

care is considered as having a relatively enduring character: help that

table 6.3. Care Given to Persons Inside and Outside the Household by

Persons Aged Sixteen and Older

Estimated Number

Percentage of Caregivers in

in Sample the Netherlands

General care inside the household 20 2,400,000

Care to persons requiring help inside

the household 4 500,000

General care outside the household 20 2,400,000

Care to persons requiring help outside

the household 10 1,200,000

Care inside and/or outside the

household 34 4,100,000

Care to persons requiring help inside

and/or outside the household 11 1,300,000

Source: SCP-Report (1994a).

is offered on a regular basis. The care is informal because it is generally

given in people’s homes and given voluntarily – that is, without financial

recompense and outside the context of a professional or organizational

setting, like professional assistance or volunteer work. In contrast to professional

assistance or volunteer work, informal care is often embedded

in a personal relationship between the giver and recipient of the care, as

they are participating in the same social network.

In the Netherlands informal care is provided on a large scale. Table 6.3

gives an overview of the amount of care provided inside and outside one’s

own household, to people who are explicitly requiring care as well as to

those who are not. One in three people – about 4 million – are offering

help to others in their direct surroundings that is not necessarily related

to illness. Table 6.3 also includes general care – that is, caring for relatives

living inside or outside one’s own household; childcare and household

care are excluded. If we look only at care provided to those in need, it

becomes apparent that about 1.3 million Dutch people offer this care,

table 6.4. Participation and Time Spent in General Care Inside and Outside the

Household by Persons Aged Sixteen and Older, 1975–1990

Participation (%) Hours perWeek Spent

1975 1980 1985 1990 1975 1980 1985 1990

Care inside the household 30 28 22 20 1.4 2.2 1.4 1.6

Care to family members 12 12 12 10 3.5 2.9 3.4 3.8

Care to nonfamily members 14 14 17 12 3.0 3.1 3.7 4.1

Total care outside the household 22 23 26 20 3.7 3.4 4.0 4.5

Source: SCP-Report (1994a).

which amounts to 11% of the population aged sixteen or older. General

care is provided by 20% of the population, either inside or outside the

household. A quarter of the help provided inside the home is related

to illness or disability (0.5 million persons). Half of the care provided

outside the home relates to illness (1.2 million of people).

As the individualization process is frequently assumed to have had a

negative influence on people’s willingness to support one another informally,

it is interesting to compare the developments over time. Are there

any changes in the contribution to informal care over the years? A comparison

of the years 1975–1990 shows that the supply of the care provided

outside the home has not undergone any substantial changes (Table 6.4).

The proportion of people helping family members remains between 10%

and 12%. Somewhat more people, 12% to 17%, offer care to nonrelatives,

but again there is no clear trend, although the time spent to care for

nonrelatives seems to have increased from 3 to 4 hours weekly. Inside the

home the data (in which household and childcare are excluded) show

some changes, though: fewer people provide care to relatives (other than

their own children) – from 30% in 1975 to 20% in 1990. A possible explanation

might be that households have become smaller between 1975

and 1990. The average amount of time spent caring for relatives, however,

remains the same – about 1.5 hours weekly.

It is a well-documented fact that the group of informal caregivers

consists mostly of nonemployed middle-aged women. The SCP research

(1994a) shows that twice as many women as men provide informal care,

15% versus 7%. Most caregivers are between thirty-five and sixty-four

years of age.Within the group of informal caregivers 34% of the women

are employed as against 61%of the men, while the corresponding figures

in the general population are 37% a nd 64%. Most background characteristics

like gender, age, education, and employment have only a very

modestinfluenceonwhether aperson provides informalcare.Muchmore

influential is the context in which the care takes place – for instance, the

geographical proximity between caregiver and recipient. However, caregivers

do display a greater societal concern comparedwith the population

at large: they prove to be more often members of various organizations

and are more frequently religious.

As ac onsequence of the growing number of elderly people and the

increase of single persons the demand will inevitably grow. Because SCP

prognoses predict that the informal care supply will remain about the

same during the next decades, shortages can be expected in the future.

For our theme of solidarity, however, it is crucial that on the basis of

comparative research over the years no decline in people’s willingness

to provide informal care is yet visible. That the demand for care will be

growing is mainly due to demographic developments in the Netherlands

and not to a failing solidarity with fellow citizens.

An important question that remains to be answered is to whom informal

care is offered. When do people put aside their own concerns and

problems to benefit somebody else? From biological and psychological

research on altruism it has become clear that people identify more easily

with their near relatives than with others (Wispґe 1972;Wilson 1975). Furthermore,

identification with those whose interests are congruent with

ours is more likely than identification with people unknown to us. Here,

an important but largely neglected characteristic of solidarity comes to

the fore, namely its selective and excluding nature.