Women, capitalism and feminisation : workers' experiences in private and non-profit childcare centres.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
The operation of childcare centres for profit has long been a contentious issue in early childhood circles. Research in New Zealand and overseas has shown that staff in non-profit centres, compared to those in private centres, tend to receive higher average wages, have lower rates of staff turnover, receive more benefits, are more likely to have paid breaks and non-contact time, are more likely to view their work as a career, express greater job satisfaction and commitment, are better trained in early childhood care and education and are more experienced in childcare. The present study surveyed 32 staff in five Christchurch childcare centres; two of the centres were privately owned. Staff were asked about qualifications, work history, their motivations for working in childcare, the most and least favourable aspects of their work, differences between their current centre and other centres they had worked in and how they saw their future in childcare and the future of childcare in New Zealand. In addition, four childcare workers were interviewed in depth; three of them were working in privately owned centres. The interviews mainly focused on the women's relationships with their employer(s), including the pleasures and difficulties of their work situations. Workers in privately owned centres were found to be generally experiencing poorer conditions than their colleagues in non-profit centres and several gave accounts of harassment by their employer, including direct threats and intimidation. The results of these surveys and interviews are considered in the light of the historical context for childcare in Aotearoa/New Zealand, including important social trends such as the feminist resurgence of the 1970s. Significant theories which have impacted on social attitudes to women and childcare are also described and their relevance to the trends indicated by the present study is outlined. The study argues that, despite significant advances in the unionisation and 'professionalisation' of childcare workers in recent times, women who work in this field are still overwhelmingly motivated by the intrinsic rewards of their work. This trend, it is argued, stems from the persistence of the 'cult of mothering' which developed in western capitalist societies in the late 1800s, which has led to the overwhelming 'feminisation' of childcare work. The study concludes by briefly considering the unresolved questions raised by the study, and the possibilities for change in the way society values the work of caring for and educating young children as proposed by socialist feminist analyses.