The development of an ambiguous care work sector in France

Between professionalization and fragmentation

Authored by: Blanche Le Bihan , Alis Sopadzhiyan

The Routledge Handbook of Social Care Work Around the World

Print publication date:  January  2018
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472479457
eBook ISBN: 9781315612805
Adobe ISBN:


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The French system for caring for older people was traditionally based on home care (Jenson, 1997; Anttonen and Sipilä, 1996) with the significant involvement of family members (partners or children) as informal care providers. This system has evolved since the 1990s with the implementation of a specific policy for older people aimed at meeting the needs of those families not covered by the healthcare system. It is based on the creation of a specific cash-for-care allowance (Le Bihan and Martin, 2010; Frinault, 2009; Martin, 2001) and has brought about the development of a formalized sector of care work. The overall public cost for dependent elderly people in 2011 was around €21 billion (60 per cent of which corresponds to the healthcare social security cost) (Renoux et al., 2014, p. 5), representing a little over 1 per cent of GDP, more or less the same as in the UK and Germany, but less than in Scandinavian countries. Estimations for the next 20 to 25 years are that the overall cost of long-term care (LTC) policies in France could reach 2.0–2.5 per cent of GDP. As in many European countries, helping elderly people to live at home is presented as a priority in France. The objective is both to contain the cost of the care system, as care in residential homes appears to be very expensive, and to satisfy the wish of many elderly people to continue living at home for as long as possible. Indeed, more than 90 per cent of people aged 75 and over live at home, and three out of four aged over 85 (FNORS, 2008, p. 14). Estimates show that in France, 75 per cent of dependent elderly people in need of care receive support from relatives, who on average spend twice as much time with their parents as professionals.

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