chapter  1
17 Pages

Emotional labour in the care industry

Workers’ best asset or biggest threat?
WithNina Sahraoui

From the perspective of a gendered political-economy analysis, this chapter explores migrant and minority ethnic workers’ discourses around emotional labour in older-age care in Paris, London and Madrid. While migrant and minority ethnic care workers’ narratives demonstrate the prevalence of emotional labour in their daily work, institutional practices and supervision mechanisms render that emotional labour invisible. This chapter argues that commitment, love and attachment play a particular role in building up care workers’ occupational identity, dignity and pride. The ‘ethics of care’ that emerges from respondents’ discourses enters, in this regard, in contradiction with the professionalisation attempts that teach detachment and deem emotional commitment unprofessional. The chapter seeks to uncover this paradox whereby the dominant professional norms reflect gendered conceptualisations of what constitutes work and fail to acknowledge the centrality of emotional labour. Building upon this analysis, the chapter calls for an extension of the concept of ‘emotional labour’ to address theoretically the complexity of migrant and minority ethnic care workers’ narratives in which emotions at work both contribute positively to their sense of agency and constitute a daily challenge.