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Confronted with COVID-19: Migrant live-in care during the pandemic

Project statusOngoing
Contact Michael Leiblfinger
Host institution Johannes Kepler University Linz (AT), International Centre for Migration Policy Development (AT), Slovak Academy of Sciences (SK)
Team members Michael Leiblfinger, Veronika Prieler, Mădălina Rogoz, Martina Sekulová
Funding information (if funded) Michael Leiblfinger and Veronika Prieler are part of the trinational research project Decent Care Work? Transnational Home Care Arrangements (http://decentcarework.net) and draw on the Austrian part chaired by Brigitte Aulenbacher, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (I 3145 G-29).
Project Summary

The employment of mainly female live-in care workers has become an important pillar of elderly care regimes within Europe. Especially in familialistic welfare states, circularly migrating live-in carers typically from Central and Eastern Europe fill, at least partially, the so-called care gaps emerging from demographic changes as well as the increasing labour market participation of women. Closed borders and other pandemic-related measures put a (temporary) halt to the transnational migration of care workers. Austria, Romania, and Slovakia represent a particular case for studying the effects of COVID-19 responses: Austria is a country with a legalised and highly institutionalised live-in care model. Roughly 80% of care workers come from Romania and Slovakia and commute to Austria in short-term cyclical rotas. As these rotas typically range from two to four weeks, the transnational care arrangements were affected earlier by travel restrictions than in countries where migrant carers stay for longer periods.
By looking at the three mentioned countries, the project examines how live-in care and its workers were affected by the pandemic. We analyse relevant policies and measures in Austria, Romania, and Slovakia and draw on media reports about live-in care and interviews with representatives of live-in care workers’ organisations. What role do the existing regulation of live-in care as well as sending and receiving countries’ pandemic responses play for the situation of care workers? How do care workers, brokering agencies, and their respective organisations react to the pandemic-related difficulties, how do they try to assert their interests, and to what extent does this influence the precarious working and living conditions of care workers? The paper written within the project shows that the pandemic highlighted the fragility of live-in care arrangements and underlined that care workers’ wants, needs, and interests were not only subordinated to the wants and needs of care recipients and their families, but were also at the mercy of several countries and their policies. While both issues have always been true, the national focus of pandemic-related measures drew renewed attention to them as well as to the deep social, gender, and regional inequalities across Europe manifested in care mobility.

Outputs / Expected Outputs

Currently, a paper and presentations

KEYWORDS / CATEGORIES

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Confronted with COVID-19: Migrant live-in care during the pandemic