The role of migrant care workers in ageing societies:context and experiences in Ireland

The proportion of migrant carers caring for Irish older people has increased over recent years, reflecting a broader global trend in care worker migration and thus, a highly competitive global market for migrant carers.

However, there has been relatively little effort to understand the implications of cultural changes in the care workforce. Such a gap in current knowledge means that there are questions around the demand for migrant carers in older adult care, the impact of the current economic decline on future demand, the experiences of migrant carers caring for older people and the impact of employing migrant carers on the well-being of older people.

Based on survey results, this report explores the implications of the recruitment of migrant carers, and aims to:

  • analyse factors that determine the current and future demand for migrant carers in the health and social care of older people in Ireland
  • examine the migration and work experiences of care workers: the means and motivation for migration, the role of recruitment agencies, choice of employment and working life
  • explore the current and future role of migrant carers in health and social care and their impact on the structure of care and independent living of older people
  • investigate the impact of employing migrant care workers on older people, their families, the quality of care and the carer-care recipient relationship
  • explore the most effective and ethical policies to regulate the admission, employment and integration of registered nurses and care assistants in the older adult care sector

Key points and recommendations:

  • increased support structures for migrant carers and other staff are required for training in language, social care skills and approaches to care,  and integration purposes such as cultural awareness programmes
  • evidence suggests that stronger regulations governing worker discrimination in care environments  are necessary. Appropriate structures for the reporting of racial abuse and labour exploitation should be put in place at organisational, regional and national levels
  • new regulations for home-based care are necessary to protect older people and their carers.
  • reform of existing processes is necessary to fully inform carers on what constitutes rights violations in the Irish labour market
  • existing employment and immigration regulations negatively impact on the effectiveness of older adult health and social care, increase the vulnerability of carers, and threaten the stability of the migrant care workforce with respect to decisions to remain in the sector and to stay in Ireland. There needs to be a more coordinated and integrated approach to policy development across the ageing, migration and employment domains, particularly in relation to long-term residency, family reunification, efficiency of the permit system, and the conceptualisation of care skill level
  • the potential for migrant workers to be marginalised within a host country, through discriminatory practices, weak regulatory structures and poor policies, is substantial. When older people, who are ultimately the consumers in this sector, have had to endure fragmented, under resourced and inequitable care provision, the value we place on their care givers, represented through support and training structures, pay and conditions and protection, also comes under question. Significant public investment in older adult care is required to provide the physical infrastructure and human capital necessary for high quality care
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