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2018 Conference Presentation

Markets/regulation Austria

10 September 2018

The development of migrant care work arrangements: the role of transnational social protection

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

Gudrun Bauer, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Austria


Background: Migrant care work in private households has become an important source of long-term care provision in Southern and in some of the Central European countries. Previous research on migrant long-term care workers in private households in Europe has shown that apart from traditional drivers of work migration, labour market regimes, migration regimes and long-term care regimes in sending and in receiving countries have a particular role in shaping respective developments. And while the literature widely agrees that income perspectives are playing a key role in the individual decisions, relatively little is known about the impact of transnational social protection for the development of migrant care work arrangements.

Objectives: The analysis uses the example of intra-EU migration of care workers in private households, more specifically care workers regularly commuting between Central Eastern European countries of origin and Austria as receiving country. After emerging and growing as a grey economy of care in Austria, migrant care work in private households or 24-hour care, as it is called in the Austrian context, was legalized in 2007-8. Self-employment has become the dominant mode of the now legalized work arrangement. And the numbers of migrant care workers and the households using this type of care work have constantly increased. One major consequence of the legalization is regular social protection coverage for migrant care workers. Potentially, this could work as a further driver for migration and the particular kind of migrant care work, but also as a hurdle in case additional costs for social insurance contributions reduce the potential income of migrant care workers.

Methods: The analysis firstly provides an overview of the relevant legal provisions by EU social security coordination, national rules for the self-employed in Austria and rules in the respective home countries. Secondly, in addition to the legal and institutional analysis, the study uses 23 in-depth interviews with 24-hour care workers originating from Slovakia and Romania.

Results and Conclusions: The initial findings indicate considerable variety in practices, experiences and perspectives. First of all, there are huge differences in the extent to which care workers are informed about their rights. Secondly, individual circumstances of migrant care workers and their perspectives on transnational social protection rights vary largely. There are those who fear that the additional costs involved with social insurance contributions limit their opportunities in this specific market and their income opportunities. Many others instead highlight the importance of particular rights, for example family benefits or future pension rights, and how these improve their lives. Based on these insights, the conclusion reflects on the implications of transnational social protection for migrant care workers and in particular for the development of migrant care work arrangements from a (trans)national policy perspective.

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