Gendering Welfare: Meaning of Care and Work of Lone Mothers

The discussion of welfare regimes is extensive both in western and Asian contexts, but feminists have pointed out the lack of a gender perspective and the neglect of unpaid work in the construction of welfare models, and call for the gendering of welfare regimes. The discussion of welfare regimes in Hong Kong has similarly neglected gender and care and work issues. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study that has involved 60 single mothers on welfare, and interviews of policy analysts and service providers. The study addresses the knowledge gap by applying gender perspectives in the analysis of welfare regimes. It reveals the meaning of care, work and welfare adopted by lone mothers, and their experiences in encounters with service providers. The finding displays that lone mothers are overwhelmed by the heavy burden of caring work and the role as the only available carer in the family. The length of work time, intensity, and the lack of flexibility of caring work make the majority of lone mothers find the work demanding. By unveiling the social perception that the non-paid caring work is less demanding than paid work, and that the lone mothers should pay more efforts by taking up paid work instead, the dilemma faced by lone mothers is shown. It has, therefore, added a new perspective to policy analysis by presenting the subjective experiences and views of service users in relation to the definitions of needs and the impact of welfare on them. Women's resistance to power domination in a Chinese context in response to a welfare regime characterized by a dual-earner or an adult-worker model is documented.