There is an urgent need to end the exploitative working conditions of live-in carers

Live-in care workers seminar 10 March 2022

(17 March 2022) Seminar on how to regulate live-in care work in Europe underlines the importance of finding a common strategy to end exploitative working conditions for carers.

On 10 March EPSU organised a seminar to discuss the situation of the live-in care sector and the working conditions its workers face. The speakers included representatives from affiliate unions ver.di (Germany), VPOD/SSP (Switzerland) and VIDA Flex (Austria), a researcher from Eurofound and a representative from the European Commission (EC). The seminar was initiated in the light of two recent court cases in Germany and Switzerland that aimed to significantly improve working conditions for live-in care workers. The invited speakers of the unions introduced the specific situation of the sector in their countries and gave recommendations on how to improve the overall situation of live-in care work. The presentations also showed how the union's efforts to regulate live-in care work in their country can contribute to the European Care Strategy and formulate common demands on a European level.

The seminar was introduced by Adam Rogalewski (EPSU Policy Officer Health and Social Services), who introduced speakers Hans Dubois (Eurofound), Dietmar Erdmeier a vice president of EPSU Health and Social Services Committee (ver.di), Vanessa von Bothmer (VPOD/SSP), Christoph Lipinski (Vida Flex) and Kathrin Riedler (EC Policy Officer, DG EMPL). Starting the panel, Hans Dubois gave a statistical overview of the current situation of live-in care workers in Europe, stating that 24h assistance is mainly provided by foreign nationals and that future refugees from the Ukraine might end up in the sector as well.

Using proper terminology

The work in most EU countries is also largely undeclared, although sometimes mediated via agencies.  All speakers stressed the importance of fine-tuning the used terms, as the term 'care' is often misused in situations where there is 24h assistance provided. The workers often lack any qualification to provide quality care, nor do they speak the language or are introduced to the families beforehand.

Urgent need for regulations to end exploitation

The framework of 24h care is therefore misleading, as an all-around package of care by a single person in a private household can never take place under fair working conditions. It is therefore important to regard the under-funded care situation in the various countries, which was especially stressed from the German perspective. The overall situation of the state of care shows why many employers seek out the precarious working conditions of migrants, who provide outpatient assistance to persons in need of care. The urge to professionalise care work, to improve working conditions and to organise a separation between nursing and domestic work, emphasized in a German context, therefore resonated as a basic demand in a European context. The fact that live-in care is not sustainable in the long run was also highlighted by Kathrin Riedler, who explained that the European Care Strategy is trying to target the working conditions in the sector by improving investments in EU Member States through different funding. In this regard, speakers and participants pointed out the importance of taking into consideration the different MS policies and the places in which funding applies. Furthermore, the agreement on a common strategy on improving the situation was highlighted, as the European situation is similar.

The issue of live-in care work conditions is a European wide problem

The seminar was an important first step in coordinating and stimulating a European-wide exchange on the improvement of long-term care. It reaffirmed EPSU's demands for a sustainable investment in care systems and the urge to include safe-staffing levels in European care policies. Funds that are coming from the EU and are directed to the MS healthcare systems should therefore be tied to specific terms and conditions that are aimed to significantly improve the working conditions for the care workforce. This is the only way that the exploitative work of 24h assistance can be substantially tackled. This also means addressing self-employment in the sector in the long-term and securing fair working conditions through regulatory frameworks and collective agreements. Furthermore live- in care workers need to be included in the European Sectoral Social Dialogue for Social Services, proposed by EPSU and the Social Employers.

For access to all presentations, please click HERE

Germany Switzerland