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Introduction

Care is a basic necessity of life like food and shelter. However, the need for care is very dissimilar in different life situations and periods. It is mostly needed during the first and the last years of life but also disability or illness may cause a need for care.

The starting point of the Research Group on Care and Social Policy (CaSo) is to understand care as an entity that is given and received in various ways and in various situations. Both, people who need care as well as people who do care-giving work, are seen as the primary actors in care.

Care means always work that somebody has to do. Care has been defined strongly as female work in all - traditional as well as modern - societies. The most part of care work is done unpaid but public authorities, voluntary organisations and private enterprises produce care also as paid work within different kinds of service provider organisations.

The contexts of care are immensely varied. Therefore, our group has from the very beginning studied the institutional forms and cultures of care in both space and time. With years, our research settings have become more international and our comparisons have become more based on theoretical concepts.

The reconciliation of care and participation in paid work has become more difficult during the last decades. All post-industrial societies face the same trends: the population is ageing, female participation in the labour market is increasing and the demands of the working life are growing. At the same time growth in public funding for care services has become increasingly difficult to obtain.

Finding resources for care has thus become one of the most essential social policy issues of the 21st century. Easy solutions are not in view and therefore there is a profound need for knowledge about reforms and experiments of different countries. Finland forms actually an interesting “laboratory”: a strong tradition of full-time female labour is here combined with a culture that has accepted open-minded experiments in constructing a broad sphere of care services and also in supporting informal care.

The task of our research group is to participate in theoretical debate on care. However, we also search for functioning alternatives in combining the demands of work and care. We are looking for the ingredients of a new care policy. The Finnish society forms the primary context for this search but a comparative approach is probably the best characterisation of the current orientation of the research group.

Recent research themes of the Research Group on Care and Social Policy (CaSo) have included
- the history, present state and trends of change of social care services in Finland,
- the implementation of care management in Finland,
- the peculiarity of the Nordic model of care services,
- the everyday care solutions that different kinds of families have adopted within different care cultures of Europe,
- the production of care and care services in Europe, Japan and the US,
- hybrid forms of care in the border zone between social care services, informal care and social security,
- the theory and concepts of care.