Universiteit Leiden

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Europa Institute

LA cuidadora: Latin American female migration and elderly home-care work in Europe

Through a lens that examines the intersection of ageing, gender, class, and migration, this project addresses the “care deficit” in European countries and the employment of migrant women from Latin America to fill this deficit.

Care for the elderly is high on the agenda of European governments and families. In 2019, 20.3% of the total population was aged 65 and over and this figure is expected to be 29.4% in 2050. At the same time, Europe is facing a “care deficit”, which refers to the decreasing possibility for care activities to be carried out exclusively within the family. In this context, care has become a commodity. Elderly care services —home care, retirement homes, nursing homes— have become a lucrative and growing business.

The idea of the home-care arrangement is that the elderly remain in their own space and are cared for by someone specialised, thus avoiding the disruption of moving to a retirement/nursing home. However, due to the needs of the elderly, this type of employment combines care and domestic activities. Carers are expected to help perform, or perform entirely for the elderly, personal care activities as well as domestic activities. In this arrangement, female migrant labour plays a key role. Research on elderly care work in Europe has mainly focused on the participation of Eastern European women, while research on the participation of Latin American women remains scarce.

This project aims to examine the participation of Central American migrant women in the labour niche of in-home care for the elderly. In particular, it explores the case of Honduran migration to Spain and Salvadoran migration to Italy. We are interested in what kind of work arrangements they have, the type of relationships they maintain with the people they care for, how they cope with the care vacuum they leave behind in their countries of origin, and their expectations and possibilities for family reunification.

Mark Klaassen & Amalia Campos Delgado

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