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Trends in migrant care work across Europe – evidence from selected European countries

2018 Conference Presentation

Policy developments AustriaBulgariaGermanyItalyPolandRomaniaUnited Kingdom

11 September 2018

Trends in migrant care work across Europe – evidence from selected European countries

Agnieszka Sowa-Kofta, CASE - Center for Social and Economic Research, Poland
Gudrun Bauer, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Austria

Lamura, G. The National Institute on Health and Ageing (INRCA), Italy
Rodrigues, R. European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Austria
Sopadzhiyan, A. School of Public Health (EHESP), France
Wittenberg, R. London School of Economics, UK
Frisina Doetter, L. University of Bremen, Germany


With ageing populations, migration related to provision of care in households is a phenomenon that is growing in importance, although thus far policy measures to regulate such care markets have been modest. Europe is divided where care migration is concerned. Destination countries are predominantly of Western and Southern Europe, although in recent years, also some Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC)–EU-members have become attractive for migrants from poorer, non-EU regions (i.e. Ukraine) to find work in the care sector. For decades, for political and economic reasons, CEEC have been source countries, what was further stimulated by the EU accession in 2004, opening borders to labour migration. Migrant care has its specifics: it is predominantly female labour, often undeclared, and poorly or moderately paid. Typically, migrants have lower economic and social status, do not enjoy equal social protection rights that domestic workers have and have lower minimum salary than domestic regulations require.

Presented findings are based on evidence gathered from selected European countries. Destination countries are represented by the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Austria and source countries by Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. The latter, being predominantly source country, have gradually also become destinations for care migrants over the last years. The analysis discusses the latest policy developments in regulating migrant care work. Development of policies towards migrant care work is discussed in the social policy context and specifically care regimes in selected countries. Following identification of the care chain, the size of migration is estimated and opportunities, challenges and drawbacks of migration for destination and source countries at the macro, organization and individual level are discussed.

Potential opportunities of employing migrants care workers in the destination countries include lessening pressure on investing in the formal care setting and family care, enabling for example work and care reconciliation that would eventually lead to cost-containment. The challenges are related to assuring equal rights and employment protection for migrant care workers as well as avoid their exploitation. The sending countries are faced mainly with challenges related to the outflow of skilled labour in health and care sector as well as the risk of human trafficking. At the family and individual level social costs are related to looser family bonds. Further policies are needed to prevent social and economic inequalities and abuse in relation to migrant care work.