Global care chains

Authored by: Helma Lutz , Ewa Palenga-Möllenbeck

Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138794313
eBook ISBN: 9781315759302
Adobe ISBN: 9781317638773


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In 2003, when Halina went to work in Germany for the first time, she was already 42 years old. At that time, she had been a widow for seven years, and she was trying to feed herself and her three children on a very low income from her job as a bookkeeper. Although she had an MA in European administrative law, she had not been able to find work that corresponded to her qualifications. For the next four years, she worked as a live-in caregiver for the elderly, on call 24 hours. Initially working illegally, she later found jobs through an agency that took a high percentage of her earnings. Out of the 1,000 euros per month, she also had to contribute to social security payments in Poland. Like most care migrants, she would return home at regular intervals for several weeks, in order to see her children and to organise her own household. During these periods, she would be replaced at her workplace by another migrant. Over the course of these four years, she changed households seven times, either because the person she was caring for died or because their family decided to move them to a nursing home. In some cases, Halina was responsible for end-of-life care. When she first went to Germany, her younger daughter was six years old and her son, who had learning difficulties, was 16. Different people took turns looking after her children. Halina was able to pay the rent and to support her children and her sick parents but she suffered from isolation at her places of work, from the emotional burden of dealing with seriously ill people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease and from the separation from her children. After four years, she returned to Poland, mainly because of the difficulty of finding someone to look after her younger daughter but her prospects of employment in Poland were poor. 1

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