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Department of Geography Economic Geography

Transnational care markets

The commercialization of home care has been accompanied by the emergence of private care agencies as key drivers of marketization. As transnationally operating labor market intermediaries, these agencies hire care workers abroad and sell packaged care services to the elderly and their families. They play a key role in shaping commercialized care markets, the working conditions of home care workers, and the definition of care itself as a marketable good.

Our research in this field analyses the strategies and practices of these care agencies in order to understand the consequences of the current reconfiguration of elderly care for states, households, families, care workers and care recipients. It compares the Swiss home care market to the commercialized care markets in Germany, Austria and Canada, where agencies have operated for a longer period of time.

Furthermore, we ask how both transnationally operating home care agencies as well as care receivers and caregiving migrants in the households deal with expectations of ‘decent care’ and ‘decent work’; how care and work requirements as well as the work to be performed are negotiated between the three groups of actors; which contradictions and conflicts occur, and how the care and work arrangements are critically questioned, justified and legitimized.

Research team

Huey Shy Chau, Karin Schwiter, Jennifer Steiner, Anahi Villalba & Katharina Pelzelmayer


·    Project "Decent care work? Transnational home care arrangements“ 2017-2021, funded by the German, Austrian and Swiss National Science Foundations

·    Project "Care Markets. The role of care agencies in the commodification of elderly care.“ 2013-2017, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation

·    Project “The private household as workplace. Characteristics of agencies, employment and working conditions“ 2011-2012, funded by the city of Zurich

PhD theses

·    Steiner, Jennifer (ongoing) Decent Care Work? Negotiating Transnational Home Care Arrangements (working title)

·    Chau, Huey Shy (2018) Brokering Labour Migration. The role of home care agencies in the migration of live-in care workers

·    Pelzelmayer, Katharina (2017) Bodies That Work, Discourses That Care. Powerful Narratives of Elder Care on the Move

Master Theses 

·    Anahi Villalba (2020) Fair Care? Möglichkeiten und Grenzen eines ‘fairen’ Live-in-Betreuungsarrangements am Beispiel der Caritas Schweiz

·    Sylvia Brauchli (2019) Negotiation of (time- and spatial) autonomy of an elderly carer within home spaces

·    Laura Andreoli (2017) Arbeitsplatz Privathaushalt – Wahrnehmung der Care-Arbeit aus der Sicht von Schweizer Privathaushalten, welche ein 24-h-Arrangement für ihre betreu- ungsbedürftigen Angehörigen organisiert haben.

·    Jill Brütsch (2016) Pflege im Ausland. Betreuung demenzkranker Personen aus der Schweiz in Thailand 

·    Sarah Hartmann (2015) The Work of Medical Travel Facilitators. Caring For And Caring About International Patients in Delhi

·    Isabelle Thurnherr (2014) "In der Not wachen illegale Engel" - Eine Diskursanalyse medialer Texte zum Thema Care-Migration in der Schweiz

·    Kathrin Honegger (2014) "Ein Ort, wo man gut alt werden kann". Das Wohnen in einer Hausgemeinschaft 60+ aus Sicht der Bewohnenden

·    Linda Schilling (2012) Legitimationsstrategien von Betreuungsunternehmen im Home Care Markt

·    Jasmine Truong (2011) Arbeit, Arbeitsidentität, Arbeitsplatz. Die neuen Wanderarbeiterinnen in der Sorgewirtschaft