Moral Distress and Privatisation: Lost in Neoliberal Transition

Afnan Attrash-Najjar, Roni Strier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses social workers’ moral distress associated with privatisation processes in neoliberal transitions. Based on a qualitative study of social workers (N = 15) working in privatised long-term nursing care agencies in Israel, findings revealed multiple expressions of moral distress. The study shows that moral distress relates to four main sources: illegal actions, violation of caregivers’ employment rights and benefits, clashes between professional principles and profit considerations, and harm to elders’ wellbeing. In addition, the study identified three patterns of coping with moral distress: compliance, denial, and resistance. Most participants follow a pattern of compliance and denial and only a minority offer some signs of resistance, mostly through covert actions. Implications for social work education and policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-38
Number of pages18
JournalEthics and Social Welfare
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Privatisation
  • moral distress
  • neo-liberalism
  • new public administration
  • professional ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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