Bonus or Burden? Care Work, Inequality, and Job Satisfaction in Eighteen European Countries

Naomi Lightman, A.V. Kevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


While existing research highlights the feminized and devalued nature of care work, the relationship between care work and job satisfaction has not yet been tested cross-nationally. England (2005) provides two theoretical frameworks that guide our thinking about this potential relationship: the Prisoner of Love framework suggests that, notwithstanding the explicit and implicit costs of care work, the intrinsic benefits of caring provide “psychic income” and lead to greater job satisfaction; while the Commodification of Emotion framework suggests, instead, that care work generates additional stress and/or alienation for the worker, thereby resulting in lower job satisfaction. This article empirically tests this relationship in 18 countries using European Social Survey (ESS) data and incorporating national-level factors. The results provide support for the Prisoner of Love framework, with variation based on the degree of professionalization. Although we find broad evidence of a care work-job satisfaction bonus, non-professional care workers experience a substantively larger bonus than their paraprofessional and professional counterparts. However, national-level economic inequality is also found to play a role in this relationship, with higher inequality amplifying the care work bonus at all levels of professionalization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825–844
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number6
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Bonus or Burden? Care Work, Inequality, and Job Satisfaction in Eighteen European Countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this