Education as care labour: expanding our lens on the work-life balance problem

On 13 November, I gave a talk at the Centre for Family and Population Research at NUS, drawing on interviews with parents in Singapore.

The challenges of combining wage work and care responsibilities have been documented in various societal contexts. National variations reveal that public policy and care infrastructure have major effects in shaping gendered patterns in who does what in households, fertility decisions, as well as overall wellbeing of parents. An area of social life and public policy that has not been integrated into this body of work has been that of education. While schools are accounted for as spaces that allow parents to be at work, inadequate attention has been paid to how education systems shape the parameters for parenting and therefore how they affect work and care experiences. In this paper, I draw on interviews with parents in Singapore to illustrate how the education system’s demands are a major component of contemporary care labor. Attending to policy effects in the area of education and integrating it into discussions of work-life balance will pave way for a more complete picture of the challenges parents face.