Publication: At home with the boss: Migrant live-in caregivers, social reproduction and constrained agency in the UK, Canada, Austria and Switzerland

Abstract: In many countries of the global North, families increasingly rely on live-in care-givers to look after their children and elderly. Although much care work remains
unpaid and informal, several states have set up a variety of migration and labour
regimes to guarantee a steady supply of workers to provide paid live-in care in
the home. This paper contributes to a broadening of the focus of labour geogra-
phy beyond “productive” labour by factoring in the theoretical perspective of
social reproduction into the debates on constrained agency. Our aim is to identify
the mechanisms that make these regimes function for employers and employees,
and their consequences for the social reproduction of the workers. To do so we
compare live-in care schemes in the UK, Canada, Austria and Switzerland and
examine the ways in which live-in care is differentially institutio nalised. Our pol-
icy analysis in these four countries shows that the constrained agency of the
workers does not solely stem from their status as migrants, but is produced by the
nexus of specific migration, care and gendered labour regimes. Furthermore, we
argue that we need to extend our perspective beyond the immediate work context
to see how live-in care regimes not only infringe, but also enable, the social
reproduction of the workers – a fact that has often been neglected by existing
research.
 
Schwiter, Karin / Strauss, Kendra / England, Kim (2018) At home with the boss: Migrant live-in caregivers, social reproduction and constrained agency in the UK, Canada, Austria and Switzerland. Forthcoming in: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Published electronically ahead of print.