Due to societal and economic developments during the two last decades, like increased female labour market participation, the ageing of society, changes in family structures and, above all, the changing preferences of people, the following issues have become increasingly important: work-family balance from the perspective of workers and accessibility of good quality care services from the perspective of children, the elderly and other groups with care needs. Moreover, greater gender equality in domestic roles may also mean that more men will have to balance paid work with child and elder care.
In this context, both child care (early childhood education and care, ECEC), and elder (long-term) care are becoming central issues. The project aims to respond to the following questions: How mutually ‘compatible’ are the strategies adopted by the relevant actors in solving the problem of ‘caring’? Subsequently, how effective are they in responding to the increasing demand for care services in times of economic austerity since the crisis?
These issues imply several aspects which need to be investigated:
The first aspect is the individual/micro-level: the needs, preferences and strategies adopted by individual households in the changing broad societal context need to be explored thoroughly. The strategies of families are closely linked to those of the other actors at the local level, like other families – whose members are volunteering, providing mutual support through both formal and informal networks, etc.
The second aspect is the meso- and macro-level: the preferences and strategies adopted by the actors which are involved in the regulation, financing and delivery of care services and their mutual interactions-synergies will be explored. This implies quite complex interactions (coordination) among the actors involved and a variety of care provisions, which may be analysed along the different dimensions.
The third aspect is social investment strategy: how the strategies of the actors involved are underpinned by the investments coming from various actors/stakeholders into care services, and how the actors shape their strategies concerning the social investments in social services.
The fourth aspect is social innovation. The purpose is to identify innovative solutions which improve the ability of the policies to meet social needs and/or increase the capacity of the actors involved to respond to the social needs more effectively.
The main research questions above will be studied in two countries: Norway and the Czech Republic, where the contexts differ to a large extent. We expect that the need or demand for services and supply of services may diverge for various reasons, thus the strategies of the actors might not be coherent. It will be interesting is to see what solutions are available for the actors involved in these different contexts and circumstances, and how social investment and innovation into care services are emerging.