Increased reliance on European migrant workers in the Norwegian and British LTC sectors
Based on 543,572 care workers’ records obtained from the English NMDS-SC with nationality information, 18% were identified as migrants (not British nationals). The data, however, are likely to have underestimated the real contribution of migrants to the British LTC sector due to the fact that these records were completed by employers and it is possible that some migrants might be invisible to them, especially if they did not require work permits such as those arriving from within the EU. The vast majority of migrant workers in the UK LTC sector were from non-European Economic Area (EEA; see Fig. 1) countries (71%), with over a quarter of all migrants arriving from just two countries: the Philippines and India, though this profile has been quickly changing. Figure 1 shows the number of LTC migrant workers who have entered the UK from 2003 to 2013. The analysis shows a steady increase of migrant workers from within Europe especially those from A8 and A2 countries (Romania and Bulgaria who joined the EU in 2007), revealing that up until 2010, non-EU migrant LTC workers entering the UK continued to exceed those from the EU. From 2011 to 2013, this trend was reversed with much larger groups of LTC migrant workers from the EU entering the UK than other groups. For example, 813 European LTC (total of migrant workers from A2, A8 and other EEA countries) migrant workers were identified by employers to have entered the UK in 2013 compared to only 365 migrants from outside Europe. These trends are clearly linked to the progressive UK immigration policies of reducing migration from outside the EU with 2010 marking the introduction of the non-EU immigration cap discussed earlier.
Figure 2 presents data from Norway showing that the largest growth since 2008 in LTC sector migrant-labour was among those arriving from EU countries in Eastern Europe. For example, compared to 2008, the number of workers from this group has increased by 139%. The number of migrants from other Eastern European countries that do not belong to the EU (such as Albania and Belarus) has also increased but not at the same rate. Data from both the UK and Norway confirm our hypothesis that the LTC sector in both countries is increasingly reliant on migrants from Europe, especially those from Eastern and Central Europe, in spite of their different welfare regimes and LTC sectors.
From immigration policies to destination choices
Current immigration policies in both the UK and Norway share many similarities, particularly a direction favouring inter-European labour mobility. However, historical developments of these policies, and more importantly, the relationships of each of these countries with potential migrants and their lives are quite different. We found the perceived accessibility of the country and its association with migrants’ own individual personal history and life course to be important factors in migrants’ destination choices, even more than the actual immigration policy of the country (Castles 2010). Firstly, there was a positive historical relationship among many European migrants with the UK. For example, Antoni, a 32-year-old Polish man, considered coming to the UK because of his personal and family ties to the UK that are rooted in his family biography:
My father was doing Second World War in England and his brother was married in Scotland and was living in Ayr in Glasgow and brother of my mother was in [the] Polish army, was fighting in Africa, Italy Monte Casino, after Second World War living in London. I was many [times] in England, in Britain. I think that I know Britain sometimes better as English, because I was in many places. (Antoni, Poland, Study A)
In this sense, many European migrants in our study considered moving to the UK through capitalizing on their own family and social networks and previous knowledge to weigh up options, including post migration conditions as experienced by members of these networks. Jakub, a 29-year-old Polish man, explains how the idea of moving to the UK was initiated through his brother’s experience:
My brother, he was first in England and he call me. He tells me I can move to England. He asks me, do you want to come here and work in care? (Jakub, Poland, Study A)
The destination choice of Norway, on the other hand, appeared to be developed more indirectly, still based on an active choice, but considered through other factors rarely relating to previous personal experience with Norway. An example illustrating this is Peter, a 39-year-old man from Germany, who grew up in East Germany, and at one point in his life renewed his contact to an old female friend, who had moved to Norway many years before:
… the lady … just wanted to say hello again after our more regular contact earlier. 15 years after the school time. …But there was too much to talk about, on telephone, so we decided that I should go to Norway to have the option of talking more. And this was very fateful.. the relationship bloomed again.. she showed me around (in Norway) … and I was impressed by what I saw … and a nature adventure (Peter, Germany, Study B)
Peter’s destination choice of Norway was an active choice at a time in his life when he felt ready to make the decision to migrate. He initially arrived in Norway on a temporary basis; then he became ‘captivated’ by Norwegian nature, and at the time we met him, he had decided to stay in Norway, four years after his choice of ‘destination’.
From destination choices to LTC work
Some participants in our studies actively sought and secured LTC work as a means of entering their destination country. This was particularly true in the case of the UK, perhaps due to the strong role of UK LTC recruitment agencies across Europe (Cangiano et al. 2009; Jayaweera and Anderson 2008). From a migrant’s perspective, LTC work, while situated to some extent at the lower end of the labour market hierarchy, can still be considered a relatively attractive option. This is mainly because of the (un)availability of other jobs, especially for European migrants from recession-hit areas in East and South Europe who in many cases face barriers in terms of qualification recognition and language proficiency within the EU. Among EU participants in the survey part of Study A, 14 per cent indicated they joined the LTC sector because of ‘ease of securing a job in the sector’ compared to only 4 per cent among non-EU migrants. Berta, a 28-year-old Polish lady explained how she sought employment in the British LTC sector through an agency, while still in Poland, as a means of moving to the UK:
Yes [I already had the job before arriving], because I signed contract in Poland with agency and so, I had the accommodation and I just had the job, so I just actually came and the next day I went to work. I did not need a visa. Chop, chop decision, two days. It was really fantastic. (Berta, Poland, Study A)
In contrast, for some migrants, the decision to work in LTC was taken after arrival in both the UK and Norway. This can occur through a lens of pragmatism, although the aims and drivers were somewhat different in the UK and Norwegian cases. In the UK, LTC work was mainly seen as a way of securing ‘any’ work in the British labour market. In the Norwegian case, this was additionally considered as an opportunity to further develop their own qualifications, which in turn could improve future employability. Karolina from the UK study, a 24year-old Lithuanian lady, explained how she initially arrived to the UK seeking to work in ‘any’ job, then ended up ‘doing’ care work:
Basically, I didn’t want to work in my country. It was difficult here at the beginning, because I didn’t have any experience and stuff like that. It was hard to find any job, but I tried that kind of job [social care]. When I decided to do this kind of work, I [was] basically looking for all the different companies and I just walked in and she got me into it. She recruited me. Basically that’s it. (Karolina, Lithuania, Study A).
A similar observation of conscious access to a care job for further opportunities was observed in the Norwegian case, however not necessarily to facilitate the initial migration decision. Marija, who is 30 years old and from Lithuania too, exploring her pragmatic decision-making process said:
I did not find anything interesting to do, and there were language problems … everywhere …and I thought that I should keep working [as a care worker/personal assistant] and working, and I kept working and working and learning language …but because I was from abroad, I could only work 20 h a week… but when finishing the studies I started full-time working. (Marija, Lithuania, Study B).
Marija’s pragmatic consideration was to collect capital for her further plans of finding an interesting job based on her achieved qualifications.
Crossing language and skills barriers
Many European migrants face barriers in accessing the skilled labour market (Benton et al. 2014), including qualification recognition and language proficiency. In the UK context, many European migrants, as compared to those from Commonwealth countries who grew up with English as their second language, arrived in the UK without these language skills. These differences in English language proficiency were emphasized by findings from the survey of Study A, where 15% of EU migrants indicated that they had some or major difficulties with working in the English language compared to only five per cent among non-EU migrants. However, for many migrants the choice of the UK as a destination was partially, and also pragmatically, made to develop language skills as an asset or ‘exportable’ capital for further ‘circular migration’ (Parreñas 2010). From a subjective rational perspective, this makes the UK an attractive country to choose as an ‘entry’ point, more than Norway. Anna, a 29-year-old Polish woman, explained how she considered learning the English language as an opportunity when choosing to come to the UK:
Poland was already in the union. That’s why it wasn’t a problem for me to be employed legal[ly] and that was the reason I came. … important was [that] I wanted to study English. I wanted to learn English in here. (Anna, Poland, Study A)
We found securing work in the LTC sector, in both the UK and Norway, offered many migrants the opportunity to overcome language proficiency barriers. Even the less accessible Norwegian language was not perceived as a barrier for many migrants to join the LTC sector even though some of them had difficulties in both the English and Norwegian languages. Peter explained how after arriving to Norway he became a personal assistant/care worker to earn money ‘without really managing the language’. However, while the English language is an ‘exportable capital’, the Norwegian language appeared to be an investment to enhance one’s opportunity while remaining in Norway as illustrated here by Leva. She is a Lithuanian 31-year-old woman who quickly made time and financial investments as part of a process of settling in Norway.
The day after I came to Norway I started a course in Norwegian language. And I then continued and continued … and I have thought that when invested so much, then I thought that Norway is a rich country. …where I might have the chance to get a new work … to find a job, and maybe if there are money, then there is new technology and everything is the best. (Leva, Lithuania, Study B)
In relation to challenges associated with skills and qualification recognition, we found that migrants adopt different strategies in the UK and Norway to overcome them. A common barrier was described by Adriana, a 43-year-old nurse from Romania, who ended up working in the Norwegian LTC sector.
I have sent all my documentation from the school [in Romania] to Oslo … but I got ‘not recognised’ on my education … because the school I went to is not registered in Norway … I need to do a six months’ course … but there is no course here [in the town she is living], only in Bergen and Oslo, so this is difficult for me having children at home [in Norway]. (Romania, Study B)
An important difference between Norway and the UK is the increase in higher education fees in the UK (except for Scotland; Dearden et al. 2012). Arguably, variable higher education tuition fees in Europe can drive higher numbers of international students away from the traditionally attractive UK destination to other European countries (Brooks and Waters 2011). Students in Norway are supported by the state through scholarships and low-rate loans, including non-Norwegian residents if they have held continuous full-time employment in the country, had a residence permit as an employee and paid tax during the previous year of study.Footnote 3 Thus, being employed in a less-skilled job in the Norwegian LTC sector may open the door to other higher education qualifications for many migrants, particularly EU migrants who do not require a residence permit.
The UK, on the other hand, has a system for qualifications operating at a lower level: the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF), with some elements (such as QCF Level 1) either offered to care workers without fees or supported by their employers as part of a training and qualification program (Department of Health [DH] 2009). This system gives migrants in the British LTC sector a chance to start a qualification process from a lower level when compared to Norway.
Migrants’ rights and protection in different welfare and employment regimes
As many other welfare states in Europe, Norway and the UK developed their modern welfare states after WWII, but the development took off in quite different directions (Esping-Andersen 1999). Norway displays a distinct welfare model in comparison to that of the UK. More than other Nordic countries, Norway has ideals about universalism, social justice and redistribution of wealth (Brochmann and Hagelund 2010), including reducing migrant poverty (for non-EU migrants) (Hooijer and Picot 2015, p. 1890). Migrants, but particularly from within the EU, residing in Norway are intentionally given almost the same rights and duties as Norwegian citizens (Hatland 2011).
On the other hand, the UK welfare system is relatively more complex and much less universal than the Norwegian case, with the majority of social security systems being means-tested and having strict criteria. UK welfare rights are additionally stratified by and dependent on immigration status, forming a hierarchy of citizenship (Bolderson 2011). We found that knowledge of welfare rights, benefits and social security on offer formed an important part of migrants’ decision-process. Maria from the Czech Republic, 25 years old, compared the employment rights to maternity pay in her home country to that in the UK:
Back home, it doesn’t matter whether you work for the same company or for four different companies as long as you work for all this time, you are entitled to maternity leave. In here, it feels almost punishment. How dare you get pregnant right now. I’m missing my maternity pay, five weeks here. (Maria, Czech Republic, Study A).
The Norwegian employment and welfare protection system seemed more important for settling in rather than for choice of Norway as an initial destination. Migrants in Norway reflected more positively when comparing their entitlements in Norway in comparison to those in their home country. Helena from Romania compared social and health care in the two countries, concluding:
I really like Norway … and I don’t want to change the place. I started liking it when I started working … There are clear differences [between Romania and Norway]. Here it is much better. Yes, here people are taken better care of than in Romania … In Romania people have to get medicine on their own. (Helena, Romania, study B)
Another important aspect of empolyment rights relates to wages and protections offered through fair contracts and trade union membership. The UK-Norwegian differences in relaiton to the LTC sector were quite striking. When Elena, 27 years old, from Lithuania was asked whether she came to Norway for economic reasons, she had these reflections:
Yes, but I can’t say it is only for economic reasons, but primarily yes. … Now I work as an unqualified worker, but I earn five times as much as in Lithuania. Yes, and if I get a long shift, then I get as much as my brother is receiving for a whole month. Full time. … It is difficult for me to hear him saying ‘Yes, I get so much salary’. Then I’m thinking: ‘Oh shit’ I get so much … after just one day of work. (Elena, Lithuania, Study B)
Norway has avoided setting a National Minimum Wage (NMW) and wages are instead based on negotiations between representatives of the three labour market parties: employers, employees and local governments. LTC workers in Norway, including migrants, appear to have some influence over wages through these union negotiations. Despite this, the pay for LTC work is still relatively low in the Norwegian labour market (Gjertsen and Olsen 2012). However, from a migrant perspective, it would be the wage difference between the home country and the host country that contributes to their choices, as illustrated by Elena (see above).
In the UK, one major challenge of working in the LTC relates to the much lower wages than those in Norway. A significant minority of LTC workers in the UK are paid under the NMW with the majority paid on or just above the NMW (Hussein 2011; Gardiner and Hussein 2015; Hussein forthcoming). The British LTC workforce is also unregulated with low union density and currently facing increased presence of weak contractual protection and working in isolated environment with no formal support mechnisms (Rubery et al. 2015). Employers interviewed as part of study A acknowledged the fact that migrants, especially women, are likely to accept low pay in return for facilitating the act of migration itself.
I think women migrant workers will be channelled into private nursing homes, private old peoples’ homes, because they could be paid minimum wage, not going to make a lot of demands, work hard and work shifts, being available. (Human Resource Manager, Study A).
However, from a migrant’s perspective, calculating different options, it seems there is always a way around these difficulties. For example, many migrants developed various coping strategies to overcome issues of very low pay through working many hours, and avoiding renting costs by drawing on their own social networks or opting for live-in care work for accomodation purposes. Rolanda, a 40-year-old lady from Lithuania explains how social networks can be crucial in negotiating access to work and accomodation, even when there are clear language and financial barriers, and how such social capital enabled her to cope with such circumstances:
I had my friend, it [she] was my landlord after I move to different place. It’s one friend from Latvia, she helped me with this [getting job with the domiciliary care agency]. She say, if you like, I help you and I was not sure. Can I do this or not and it will be my [poor] English language all right in its place and I try. I made all application and then straight away to private place one time and then resident homes and then hospital and then mobility centres and I try everywhere. I was very happy everywhere. (Rolanda, Lithuania, Study A)
The interplay of macro-social structures and their interpretation by migrants
Figure 3 summarizes the macro-social structures as perceived through a migrant’s perspective, using a framework of a migrant agency. The analysis indicates that the wider immigration policies act as facilitator for EU migrants to both countries; although from a migrant’s perspective and based on their social networks, the UK stands as a more desirable destination. Migrants consider Norway on a more individual basis and for specific reasons. The welfare regimes, while difference in the two countries, combined with ageing populations, offer opportunities for migrants to work formally in the LTC sector. Other factors including language, employment rights and educational opportunities are perceived and weighed differently for the two countries. The English language stands as an attractive exportable asset for many migrants, while the Norwegian language is perceived as an investment in the future particularly when combined with further educational opportunities. The British LTC sector offers very little employment protection and few qualification opportunities resulting in possible exploitation and de-skilling of migrants (Shutes and Chiatti 2012). On the other hand, the Norwegian LTC sector is perceived to offer employment protection and open opportunities for obtaining further qualifications and thus may act as means for up-skilling and further integration in the wider labour market.