This article examines the value of work in childcare, and the ways this is impacted by historical schemes of value in relation to social class and gender. It critically examines the push for professionalism within the field, showing that this favours particular classed forms of cultural capital, while rendering other forms of capital invisible. Drawing on interviews with childcare workers in Australia – overwhelmingly female and with little access to symbolic capital – the data shows an ambivalence towards the professionalisation process and frustration about the lack of recognition for their work, either financially or culturally. The workers’ views highlight emotional and relational skills, which are at odds with traditional definitions of professional skills. The author argues that what is needed is a new concept of childcare expertise, which acknowledges the classed and gendered histories of workers, and the already significant worth of the work they do.
- emotional capital