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Intermediaries in a Europeanised market for migrant live-in care work: brokering agencies in Austria and Germany

2018 Conference Presentation

Markets/regulation Germany

10 September 2018

Intermediaries in a Europeanised market for migrant live-in care work: brokering agencies in Austria and Germany

Verean Rossow, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Timm Frerk, University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf, Germany
Simone Leiber, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
August Österle, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria


Background: In several European countries, employing migrant care workers in private households has become an increasingly used individual response to growing long-term care needs. Research in this area has mostly focused on migrant care workers, families employing migrant care workers and the impact of care, migration and employment regimes for respective developments. Less research has put the role of intermediaries to the center of the analysis.

Objectives: This paper comparatively analyses intermediaries as brokering agencies for the employment of migrant live-in care workers in Germany and Austria. In both countries, migrant live-in care workers are almost exclusively from Central and Eastern EU member countries. While this provides a common EU market frame, the regulatory context for the employment of migrant care workers and for the activities of intermediaries still varies largely. Most importantly, while the posted worker model dominates migrant care work in Germany, in Austria migrant care workers are almost exclusively self-employed. And, while Austria has seen a rather comprehensive regulation of migrant care work, legal arrangements and grey economy arrangements continue to co-exist in Germany. This also shapes the development and the role of the intermediaries in the two countries.

Methods: The paper combines a state-of-the-art analysis of the global literature on intermediaries in domestic work, and literature on migrant care work in long-term care in Europe with an online-survey among brokering agencies in Germany and Austria. The survey was undertaken in the context of the Euro Agency Care project. The quantitative analysis is based on responses by 65 agencies in Germany (23.7% response rate), and by 78 intermediaries in Austria (17.9% response rate).

Results: Overall, the data allows to describe the brokering sector as a booming sector in Germany and in Austria, both in its recent development and with a view to potential future developments. However, the sector is still quite divers, in terms of size, organizational forms, regional presence or legal models. Also, intermediaries differ largely in their relationship with established welfare organizations in long-term care, some of them are exclusively focusing on brokerage between care workers and users, while others cooperate with providers of other long-term care services or are even subsidiaries of such companies.

Conclusions: Overall, heterogeneity and uncertainty are key features of the brokering agencies market in Germany and Austria. This is related to the novelty of this particular sector, but even more so to legal and regulatory uncertainties. These uncertainties relate to current dominant models for the work relationship between households and migrant care workers (posted workers in Germany and self-employment in Austria), but also the regulatory context for the activities of the intermediaries themselves. In the concluding discussion these insights are discussed in the light of global developments for intermediaries in domestic work.