Huey Shy Chau

Huey Shy Chau, Dr.

Affiliated researcher

Economic Geography

Tel.: +65 83 46 17 93/+41 79 778 47 85


I am interested in understanding social transformation processes in relation to economic inequality through the lense of labour and migration. What interests me most are the sites of struggles and negotiations around labour mobility, migrants' rights and access to social participation.

In my current research project, I examine how migrant domestic workers deal with questions around pregnancy and family life in Singapore. Based on observations and interviews with domestic workers and key actors relevant for domestic workers' right so social reproduction and participation, I analyse how practices and social relations between individual and institutional actors shape pregnant domestic workers' transnational mobility and their access to resources in the city. Drawing on 'rights to the city' and 'urban citizenship' approaches, I explore how domestic workers claim rights in the city and in this sense, manage urban space by themselves and for themselves.

My PhD research focuses on the recent emergence of private for-profit home care businesses in Switzerland. So-called care agencies recruit circular migrant women from the European Union accession states and place them as temporary live-in care workers in private households. Based on participatory observation, qualitative interviews and informal conversations with care agents, recruiters, care workers, unionists, government officials and other relevant individuals involved in the mediation of care workers, I explored how migration of live-in care workers to Switzerland is facilitated. In form of a ’mobile ethnography’, I traced the routes of migrant care workers into live-in care and the practices and infrastructures that enable their movements. My results show that so called home care agencies are key drivers in the development of a migration infrastructure that specialises in live-in care workers’ migration patterns and that encloses migrant workers in their journey and places of work, as well as ensures their return back home after an assignment. The findings indicate fundamental changes in migration control with the introduction of the free movement of workers in Switzerland. Not only has it granted workers more rights to move freely for work, but private actors such as home care agencies have gained new powers in determining who and under which conditions workers migrate. Whereas labour migration control largely took place at physical borders before the liberalisation of migration admission within the EU- and EFTA states, it has now shifted to less visible borders, such as around the live-in care labour market.


2018 University of Zurich: PhD in Economic Geography

2012 University of Neuchâtel: MA Migration and Citizenship

2009 University of Berne: BA Social Anthropology


01/2018 - 07/2019
SNSF Early.Postdoc-mobility fellow 
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

09/2013 - 12/2017
PhD Student | Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland


Chau, Huey Shy. 2018. Brokering Labour Migration. The Role of Home Care Agencies in the Migration of Live-in Care Workers in Switzerland. PhD Thesis, Zurich: University of Zurich.


Chau, Huey Shy, Katharina Pelzelmayer, and Karin Schwiter. 2017. Short-term circular migration and gendered negotiation of the right to the city: The case of migrant live-in care workers in Basel, Switzerland. Cities - The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning. Advance online publication. fulltext


Chau, Huey Shy, Awanish Kumar, and Silva Lieberherr. 2015. ‘Non-Family Labour in the Swiss Agriculture: A Status Report and Future Prospects’. Journal of Socio-Economics in Agriculture 7 (1): 1–10. fulltext



09/2017     ‘(Im)Mobilisierungen von zirkulär migrierenden Arbeitskräften in der Seniorenbetreuung’ [(Im)mobilising circular migrant wokers in elderly care], German Congress for Geography, Tübingen, Germany: with Karin Schwiter. 

05/2017     ‘Die Rolle von Betreuungsagenturen in der 24h Betreuung. Transnationale Vermittlung von BetreuerInnen’ [The role of home care agencies in 24h care. The transnational placement of care workers], Nationale Konferenz: Bezahlte Arbeit in Schweizer Privathaushlten [National conference on paid domestic work], Zürich, Switzerland       

10/2016    'A commercial market for elderly care in Switzerland. The role of placement agencies in 24/7 care arrangements', 3rd International Symposium on Transnational Aging, Long-term care for the elderly across borders, Mainz, Germany

08/2016    'Home care agencies in control of labour migration? Transplacing live-in carers from household to household', The 18th Nordic Migration Conference, Oslo, Norway

11/2015    'Die kommerzielle 24h-Betreuung als vergeschlechtlichter neuer Markt: Vorstellung von Geschlecht, Mobilität und Arbeit' [commercial 24h care as gendered new market: Notions on gender, mobility and work], Interdisziplinäres Forschungskolloquium Gender Studies [Interdsciplinary Research Colloquium Gender Studies], Zurich, Switzerland: With Karin Schwiter and Katharina Pelzelmayer

10/2015    'Vermittlungspraktiken im Graubereich: Care-Migration in der Live-in Betreuung' [Placement practices in a grey area: Care migration in live-in arrangements], German Congress for Geography, Berlin, Germany

06/2015    'Governing transnational care work: live-in care arrangements in a grey area' 12th Annual Imiscoe Conference, Geneva, Switzerland

04/2015    'A flexible and replaceable workforce in the live-in care market?' Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers, Chicago, USA

04/2015    'Short term circular migration and the negotiation of rights to the city: The case of migrant live-in care workers in Switzerland' IGU Preconference of the Gender and Geography Commission of the of the International Geographical Union, Milwaukee, USA: with Karin Schwiter and Katharina Pelzelmayer

01/2015    'Arbeitsplatz Wohnzimmer. Zur performativen Herstellung eines Marktes im Privathaushalt' [Working in the livingroom: Performative construction of a market in the private household], New Cultural Geography Conference, Bamberg, Germany: with Karin Schwiter and Katharina Pelzelmayer