Care Workers in Transnational Polish-German Spaces

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Ina ALBER, University of Goettingen, Germany
Taking care of elderly people is an urgent task for society. One social practice evolving from the need of 24/7 care in private homes in Germany is hiring (mostly) female care-takers from a Polish agency specialised in transnational care work. Practically, these Polish women are employed in Poland, but they are allowed to work as ’delegates’ for three months in Germany within their Polish work contracts. However, they must spend the following three months in Poland again in order to retain their ‘delegate status’. This grey zone of il/legal transnational work within the EU allows many Polish women in economic crisis to earn a living for their families – thereby challenging traditional gender roles. But at the same time they expose themselves to bad working conditions and lose contact to their families at home. In the Polish discourse this transnational female work is connected to slogans like „modern slave work“, „alarming (mental) health conditions“ of the female care workers, and „Euro-orphans“. The social practices lead to a life of commuting and living in a transnational Polish-German space. The questions I`d like to discuss in my paper are: how do Polish women working in Germany address these problems in their biographical narrations and how do they integrate these experiences into their biographies? How do they cope with their transnational lives and how do they make use of social networks and civil society organisations like Caritas for support? And how can all actors involved like German and Polish families, care takers, organisations as Caritas, and politicians create ”the future they want“? The paper will present preliminary results from my project on Polish-German relations in care work for the elderly building on biographical-narrative interviewing and discourse analysis.