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Impact of COVID-19 Policy Responses on Live-In Care Workers in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland

Project status
Michael Leiblfinger
Host institution
Johannes Kepler University Linz (AT), University of Zurich (CH), Goethe University Frankfurt (DE)
Team members
Michael Leiblfinger, Veronika Prieler, Karin Schwiter, Jennifer Steiner, Aranka Benazha, Helma Lutz
Funding information (if funded)
This research is part of the of the project Decent Care Work? Transnational Home Care Arrangements, a cooperation of Aranka Benazha, Amanda Glanert, Helma Lutz, Iga Obrocka, and Ewa Palenga-Möllenbeck from Goethe University Frankfurt/Germany; Brigitte Aulenbacher, Michael Leiblfinger, and Veronika Prieler from Johannes Kepler University Linz/Austria; and Karin Schwiter, Jennifer Steiner, and Anahi Villalba from the University of Zurich/Switzerland. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, project no. LU 630/14-1, by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, project no. I 3145 G-29, and by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF, project no. 170353.
Project Summary

Context: The measures taken to counter the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the circular migration of live-in care workers between their countries of origin and the elderly persons’ households.

Objective: In this comparative policy analysis, the impact of COVID-19 related policy measures for transnationally organised live-in care in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland is investigated.

Method: Policy measures and media debates were analysed and inquiries with care workers, representatives of care agencies, unions, and activist groups were carried out between March and June 2020.

Findings: In accordance with their institutionalisation of live-in care, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland responded differently to the challenges the pandemic posed to live-in care arrangements. However, all three countries focused on extending care workers’ rotas and re-establishing transnational mobility. These priorities subordinated the interests of care workers to those of care recipients. Furthermore, the measures remained short-term solutions that failed to acknowledge the fundamental flaws and inequalities of a care model that relies primarily on female migrant workers and wage differentials within Europe.

Limitations: This policy comparison is based on an in-depth analysis of COVID-19 related policies, supplemented by inquiries among stakeholders with whom research had been done prior to the pandemic. More in-depth interviews are required to further substantiate the findings concerning their perspectives and gain insight into the longer-term effects of the pandemic.

Implications: The pandemic has brought the flaws of the live-in care model to the fore. Countries need to rethink their fragile care policies, which build on social inequality and uninhibited transnational mobility.

Outputs / Expected Outputs

Paper and presentations

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Impact of COVID-19 Policy Responses on Live-In Care Workers in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland