In a 2012 staff working document, the European Commission described personal and household services (PHS) as covering a broad range of activities that contribute to well-being in the home of families and individuals: child care (CC), long term care (LTC) for the elderly and for persons with disabilities, cleaning, remedial classes, home repairs, gardening, ICT support, etc.).
This definition embraces both care activities and non-care activities. In another document, the European Commission (2011) defined “personal services” as: “regrouping all services which contribute to the greater well-being at home of the citizen: care services (childcare, home help, care of elderly people, etc.), cleaning, remedial class, home repairs (electricity, gardening, etc.) and maintenance (administrative and technology assistance “.
In its 2001 report on “employment in household services”, the European Foundation for the improvement of living and working conditions (Eurofound) defined them as “all those services provided by public or private organisations, or by the third sector, which substitute paid work (in the form of a job or self-employment) for work which was formerly performed unwaged within the household. Therefore, all services provided inside and outside the home of the user are included, as long as they maintain and support members of a private household” (Cancedda, 2001). The report identified five sub-sectors of household services: childcare, care of the elderly, domestic cleaning (of the house, linen, clothes, etc.), catering, domestic maintenance and gardening.
In this project, we decided to use the Commission’s 2012 definition of PHS and to consider both household support and care-related services. We have followed the idea that care-related services are provided to (dependent) persons with special needs (long-term care for older people, care services for disabled persons, childcare services), whereas household support services are provided to improve the well-being of their recipients. The following types of services are covered in the guide:
- Cleaning (household support)
- Cooking (household support)
- Ironing (household support)
- Home repairs (household support)
- Gardening (household support)
- Maintenance (household support)
- Remedial classes (household support)
- Care for the elderly (care-related services)
- Care for persons with disabilities (care-related services)
- Childcare (care-related services)
It is important to note that the same service (e.g. home cleaning) can be considered part of the overall care provided to a dependent person, or it can be delivered to non-dependent people with other socio-economical perspectives, such as: easing women integration into the labour market, contributing to a better conciliation of work and social life, lowering mental health issues and psychosocial risks, and so on. (Orseu, 2013). The state of the recipient of a personal service is therefore important and may contribute to defining the nature of the service. Hence it is difficult to distinguish between care and non-care activities.
Even if care-related services and household support activities have different aims and effects and are usually organised differently in some countries, both types of services can be supported by the same kind of measures. Moreover, despite the social aim of care-related services, these kinds of services also represent an important pool of new jobs and create important earn-back effects for governments.
However, it is important to distinguish between the two types of services, as they could cause different effects. It is also important to keep in mind that both services might also create different types of jobs. For example, some jobs in care-related services require qualified workers and very specific competencies.
Care-related services are considered social policies and are intended to develop care for dependent persons, childcare, and so on. In many countries, these services are assessed by public bodies. Household support is, on the contrary, considered a part of employment policies and is intended to create new jobs, motivate the unemployed and combat undeclared jobs, work-life balance policies, and so on.