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Gendered corrosion of occupational knowledge: Contracting-out Israeli social services

Orly Benjamin (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 18 April 2016




When public agencies seek to privatize a service, a commissioning process begins wherein public sector budgeters must decide how generous the funding will be while taking occupational standards into account so that the quality of service is assured. One important area of occupational standards is the required personnel and job sizes of certified employees. Not enough attention has been directed to how occupational standards’ related knowledge is treated in the process. The purpose of this paper is to: first, investigate how the commissioning process is experienced by Israeli, often female, occupational standards administrators. Second, proposing a gendered perspective on Sennett’s corrosion of character thesis.


As part of an institutional ethnography project, 16 interviews were conducted with (14 female and two male) occupational standards administrators at the Israeli Welfare, Education and Health Ministries.


The routine of commissioning involves a stage of using occupational standards’ knowledge and experience, and a stage of dismissing it. The “corrosion of character” embedded in the dismissal stage undermines historical achievements in the area of recognizing caring work and skills.

Research limitations/implications

The research is unable to distinguish between the specific caring occupations discussed.

Practical implications

Service delivery modes has to develop into more publicly visible forums where occupational standards’ are protected.

Social implications

The continuous corrosion of occupational knowledge may result in the demise of professionalization in care service occupations causing increasingly more polarization and poverty among their employees.


While Sennett’s thesis has already been found plausible for understanding public servants’ experiences of the “new public management,” until recently, not enough attention has been devoted to the commissioning processes’ gendered implications for contract-based delivery of services. This paper examines these implications for the power struggle between the feminist achievements protecting skill recognition in caring occupations, and policy makers.



Benjamin, O. (2016), "Gendered corrosion of occupational knowledge: Contracting-out Israeli social services", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 174-185.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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