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The Covid-19 Pandemic in Austria: With Special Reference to Migrant Care Workers

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Covid-19 Pandemic

Abstract

This chapter presents the experiences of a country with a well-established welfare state during the Covid crisis. Unprecedented policy measures stabilized the labour market, key infrastructures and the health system. However, the Pandemic also highlighted a number of major shortcomings of the regulatory framework of social and health policy responses. A special focus is being put on long-term care as this sector has been hit particularly in terms of mortality, related structural shortcomings and political debates. On average, 25% of deaths during the pandemic have occurred in residential care settings, long-term care settings were badly equipped with protective gear, and the isolation of residents in care homes triggered ample discussions about human rights. One of the idiosyncrasies of the Austrian long-term care system is its reliance on migrant care workers both in the formal delivery of services and in the sector of so-called private live-in care. Although Austria is one of few countries where some kind of regulation of personal carers was implemented, this “dualisation of the workforce” keeps low-skilled migrant personal carers in the secondary labour market and continues to divide the care workforce. While working conditions and wages are already critical in formal care delivery, the situation of migrant live-in carers, in their majority female, is often precarious. The chapter exposes this specificity in quantitative terms as well as in its partly dramatic consequences during the Pandemic when lockdowns and travel restrictions showed the limits of this type of care delivery. In the long run, it is argued, shortages of the workforce in long-term have to be addressed by systemic reforms that strengthen integrated care delivery with decent working conditions, and ethical recruitment strategies that ensure equal rights for all care workers.

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Leichsenring, K., Kadi, S., Schmidt, A.E., Staflinger, H. (2023). The Covid-19 Pandemic in Austria: With Special Reference to Migrant Care Workers. In: Aspalter, C. (eds) Covid-19 Pandemic. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-2497-4_13

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