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2012 Conference Presentation

Workforce Austria

8 September 2012

Migrant care workers and the transnational redistribution of care and emotional work

Gudrun Bauer, WU - Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
August Ă–sterle, WU - Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria


OBJECTIVE: In many European countries with a familialistic care orientation, cash for care is used as an approach to maintain informally provided care and at the same time to stimulate market-driven developments for long-term care services. One major implication is the emergence of a care economy with migrants providing care work in private households. This involves a redistribution of emotional and interactive work in the private household of the user and often it also involves a redistribution of emotional and interactive work in the home country of the migrant care worker. This article investigates emotional work from the migrant care worker perspective. It studies (a) the different aspects of individually perceived emotional, psychological and physical constraints that are attached to migrant care work arrangements, and (b) the reorganization of care obligations for children and other family members in the home country of migrant care workers. Hence, the transnational character of migrant care work will be studied in view of simultaneously handling a double burden of care in two different countries. The regional focus is on migrant care workers from Central Eastern Europe providing 24-hour care in Austrian households.

METHODS: The study follows the literature conceptualizing emotional and interactive work in a transnational context. It is based on a systematic literature review on transnational care work and on qualitative interviews with at least 14 migrant care workers from Central Eastern Europe working in private households in Austria.

RESULTS: First, specific aspects associated with the redistribution of care work from family members to migrant care workers will be discussed by distinguishing between (a) factors that relate to the specific working situation and (b) factors caused by the particular care work arrangement. Interviews show that work-related burdens primarily depend on the clients’ mental and physical condition. Inappropriate behaviour of the client can create tough working conditions. Furthermore, the specific working arrangement has various advantages for the care worker and the user, but can also cause considerable strain. Second, the redistribution of emotional work in the family of the migrant worker caused by labour migration is of particular interest. In this context, the individual perception of emotional and psychological costs for the migrant carer and for family members left behind, in particular children and older adults, will be analysed.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Cash for care policies, familialistic care orientations and individual reactions in such a context have led to a growing transnational economy of care involving a substantial redistribution of emotional work. This not only creates considerable burdens for the individual migrant care worker and family members left behind in the home country, it also has implications for care policies which will be discussed in the conclusion.


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