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Globalization has led to changes in distribution of work in Asian and Pacific societies. While labor-intensive manufacturing work has largely moved to low wage countries of the region, service work, including health care work is an increasing proportion of work in developed countries, the use of migrant/guest worker labor is common and voluntary labor provides much of the care.

Health bestrides the private and public sectors and in the latter, neo-liberalist ethos has lead to governments seeking to cap public spending, reduce taxes and privatize services from which profits can be made.  Many care services fall into this latter category.  On one hand, the contract that the care-giver enters into with the client forms the basis of newer community care policies, strengthening the anti-discriminatory ethos of personhood for the ailing aged.  On the other hand, care-givers, often guest workers, illegal immigrants or family members, may be denied similar rights.

While in general, work which used to be performed in households in developed countries has been out-sourced, in the health-care sector, household work is increasing as ailing family members previously in institutional care in developed countries are now cared for at home.  This work then becomes unpaid or underpaid work, supervised by professionals. 

Some contrasting examples of care-work in Singapore, in Canada and in Australia highlight these three related themes and the paradoxes embedded in them: the first paradox is embedded in the geographic distribution of work: the second in contractualism and its effects on caregivers and those cared for: and the third in the distribution of care tasks and responsibilities between lay and professional health workers.


Ageing - Globalization - Cultures - Singapore - Canada - Australia 


Rosemary Cant is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Community and Behavioral Health Sciences at the University of Sydney. She has taught courses in sociology, social policy and research methods. Caregiving, ageing and lay medical knowledge have been principal teaching areas and main foci of her research interests. She has published in Australian and international journals in both the areas of caregiving and of ageing.


This article is based on a conference paper presented at the 2002 conference of the Asia-Pacific Sociological Association in Brisbane, Australia ("Asia-Pacific Societies: Contrasts, Challenges, and Crises"). 


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