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Facing COVID-19: Live-in Care in Central Europe

Project status
Michael Leiblfinger
Host institution
Johannes Kepler University (AT), Charles University (CZ), Hungarian Demographic Research Institute (HU), HEKATE Conscious Ageing Foundation (HU)
Team members
Brigitte Aulenbacher, Petra Ezzeddine, Charles University, Dóra Gábriel, Michael Leiblfinger, Kinga Milankovics, Veronika Prieler
Funding information (if funded)
Brigitte Aulenbacher (lead), Michael Leiblfinger, and Veronika Prieler are the Austrian members of the trinational research project Decent Care Work? Transnational Home Care Arrangements (, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (I 3145 G-29).
Project Summary

During the pandemic, working conditions in receiving and sending countries have been further undermined. Facing worse conditions in their home countries, migrant workers nonetheless have been pushed to accept jobs offered abroad despite potential health and other risks and restrictions during the pandemic. The cross-border care labor market is often portrayed as a win-win one, in which older people receive affordable care and migrants a job paying more than alternatives at home. In fact, this Central European care market creates a scheme of nationality-based structural inequalities, transnational exploitation of workforce, and exclusion amidst a myth of an egalitarian and integrated Europe. Although the fragility of live-in care was given new attention by the pandemic, care workers’ and receivers’ wants and needs were either not addressed, or addressed insufficiently or unevenly. People in need of care and their relatives faced a lack of public support and anxiety because of closed borders. While many measures aimed to ensure the continuation of live-in care, workers’ living and working conditions that were precarious even before the pandemic remained ignored. Because of social distancing – also between care receivers and their relatives –, carers faced increased workloads and isolation. Transnational travel brought the risk of contagion and/or (unpaid) quarantine. Care workers stuck in their home countries faced financial deprivation. And despite discourses about their systemic relevance, care workers were presented as a threat to public health and national labor markets. The social and financial burden of the pandemic thus ended up falling on the shoulders of circular migrants.

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Facing COVID-19: Live-in Care in Central Europe