Choosing Whom to Care for

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Abstract

This article discusses the author’s interview findings with various stakeholders in the care systems of Singapore and Taiwan by connecting their narratives to the theoretical frameworks of feminist political economy and global care ethics. The informant groups in both locations who are cited include domestic employers of “migrant maids” who provide informal home care services, family caregivers, and NGO activists who spoke about household caregiving for children and the elderly. This article aims to contribute to critical conversations about the hierarchies of care work that are rarely examined in detail by the literature on care work in Asia. For example, a key question that emerges is, why is childcare valued more highly than eldercare, and what implications does the omission of eldercare by Marxist Left activism raise? Using NVivo software, the author conducted an open coding of twenty interviews spread across the aforementioned respondent groups. The key themes for this analysis were generated on the basis of the interviewees’ words as much as possible, with special emphasis on areas where they compared childcare and eldercare. Based on critical feminist political economy frameworks and research observations, the author argues that deep structural changes are needed for more equitable allocations of care responsibility in society. Globally, gendered and racialized ideologies of domestic caregiving and negative perceptions of elderly dependence combine to create oppressive outcomes for caregivers and recipients. In the Southeast Asian context, the author argues for less reliance on migrant domestic workers (MDWs), called “maids” in the local parlance, for informal at-home eldercare. In addition, negative perceptions of the elderly population as fiscal burden and “dead productivity” must be rethought.