Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Making Gendered Healthcare Work Visible: Over-Looked Labour in Four Diverse European Settings

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Abstract:  Healthcare has long been a gendered enterprise, with women taking responsibility for maintaining health and engaging with service providers. Universal healthcare provision notwithstanding, women nonetheless undertake a range of healthcare work, on their own account and on behalf of others, which remains largely invisible. As part of a multi-method comparative European study that looked at access to healthcare in diverse neighbourhoods from the point of view of people’s own health priorities, the concept of ‘healthcare bricolage’ describes the process of mobilizing resources and overcoming constraints to meet particular health needs. Bricolage mediates between different kinds of resources to meet particular challenges and describing these processes makes visible that work which has been unseen, over-looked and naturalised, as part of a gendered caring role. Drawing on 160 semi-structured interviews and a survey with 1,755 residents of highly diverse neighbourhoods in Germany, UK, Sweden and Portugal, this article illustrates the gendered nature of healthcare bricolage. The complex variations of women’s bricolage within and beyond the public healthcare system show how gendered caring roles intersect with migration status and social class in the context of particular healthcare systems.

Keywords:  bricolage; diversity; European welfare; gender; healthcare; migration


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© Hannah Bradby, Jenny Phillimore, Beatriz Padilla, Tilman Brand. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.