Formal and informal care in Portugal - convergences and heterogeneities in the production of meanings and values in different care relationships

public.project.responsible_investigator_cria: Sara Canha

public.project.research_group: Livelihoods, Politics and Inequalities


Care | Gender | Work | Family


Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia









The care provided by different people and in different relationships (familiar, professional, formal, informal) is valued in different ways (love, affection, duty, service, work, among others). However, they are constituted as an interconnected whole (a system of care), with common consequences in the ways in which care is recognized and (de)valued, and with the sexual division of work being a dominant transversal aspect. This project looks at different care configurations in the Portuguese context, focusing on care provided in home settings to people in a situation of dependency and with disabilities, and to older people. 
The aim of this research is to understand the convergences and heterogeneities in the production of value and meaning in different caregiving relationships. On the one hand, the perceptions, values, practices and activities associated with caring are analysed with paid and unpaid carers and also among those who receive care. On the other hand, we observe how care is defined, valued and regulated politically and legally and analyse the type of dominant discourses around care in the public and political sphere, highlighting two recent events: 1) the entry into the political and public agenda of the issue of informal care and 2) the pandemic context of covid-19. 
This research seeks to understand how conducting an integrated analysis that looks at different relations and formats of care allows us to question the boundaries between paid and unpaid care, the formal and the informal, the economic and the social, productive and reproductive work, public and private. 
The home is placed at the centre of the analysis not only because it is the space in which most care is provided to date, but also because of contemporary political and social trends that continue to reaffirm the home as the place of care. Added to this is the increasing commodification of care, which poses challenges not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of race and class. 
The "care crisis" affecting Portugal and other countries today is part of a deeper crisis that relates to the way societies have invisibilized and devalued care and dependency. By limiting the need for care to certain moments in the life cycle - childhood, old age and illness - its fundamental role in the sustainability of life and social reproduction is hidden. In the European context, the scarcity of care provision in relation to growing needs has put increasing pressure on social and health systems. Demographic ageing, the transformations in family dynamics and the changes in the last decades regarding women's participation in the labour market, make it necessary to reflect on the social organisation of care in contexts of change. 
It is hoped that this project will contribute to a theoretical and conceptual reflection on care and its role in society, on how society wants to recognize, organize and distribute care, and that it will serve to think about the future of public care policies.

Full members

Antónia Pedroso de Lima