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 with 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.

My current research project sheds light 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. In my research I follow the routes migrant women take into live-in care work and examine the care agencies’ recruitment and placement practices. My work is situated within a small but growing number of studies on brokers and intermediaries in relation with migration. Taking recruitment and care agencies as an analytical vantage point shifts the focus from the question of why people migrate to an understanding of how transnational movement of home care workers is enabled and the configurations that control their mobility. My analysis is 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. Besides fieldwork in Switzerland I conducted two small fieldtrips to Slovakia and Hungary.    


2012 University of Neuchâtel: MA Migration and Citizenship

2009 University of Berne: BA Social Anthropology


Since 2013 University of Zurich: PhD Student | Department of Geography    


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