- PPI Web Desk
Vienna: The COVID-19 pandemic made working conditions for women migrant care takers in Austria unbearable. The majority of people working as live-in care taker for elderly persons are migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe. These women are not only poorly paid and forced to work excessively long hours for months without holidays, they also face various types of abuse and discrimination, reveals a new research by Amnesty International.
The work as live-in care takers is physical and emotional exhausting. It is shocking that these women are treated disrespectfully for the service they provide to old people with a salary below the guaranteed minimum wage in Austria.
Western Europe Researcher at Amnesty International, Marco Perolini said, “Women migrant workers are currently under compensated and under protected. We call on the Austrian authorities to meet their human rights obligations and guarantee fair and safe working conditions for all live-in carers and ensure the rights of migrant women are equally protected.”
In Austria’s aging population, over 25% of its population will be over 65-years-old by 2040. About 60,000 health care workers and informal family care takers provide live-in care in Austria. 92% of them are women and 98% are migrant workers, mostly from Romania and Slovakia.
Austria does not value the work of live-in care workers socially, politically nor economically. The average Austrian women is paid 20% less than its male counterpart, and migrant women earn 26.8% less compared to Austrian women. Underpayment of migrant women working as live-in care takers is not an Austrian problem alone. The German Federal Labor Court ruled that live-in care workers, mainly migrant women, should be paid at least the minimum wage in Germany. In the United Kingdom, 58% of care workers are paid below the real Living Wage.
The work of live-in care workers is misclassified as self-employed, and therefor they are not protected against excessively long working hours and have no access to sick payment. For 98% of the workers, none of these human rights are guaranteed.
“We don’t want to be self-employed. Employees have more rights. As a self-employed [person] you don’t have any rights. We only have obligations. No holiday pay, no unemployment benefits. We want somewhere we can go to when we have problems,” said Dora, a Romanian care worker.
Live-in care workers are on-call 24 hours daily. Migrant women work two to four weeks in a row and return to their home countries for a break. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions forced most migrant workers to extend their work rotas in Austria. The long working hours and the very stressful work has led to an increase of health issues and burn-out.
Eszter, a live-in care worker from Romania said “I should have returned home on 21st March . However, I had to stay. It was very difficult for me because I never had a break. And these breaks are crucial! I left my client’s house at night to get some fresh air. I worked 3.5 months in a row during the lockdown. I also had problems with my agency then. They never called me and cut my earnings. Then, I collapsed and had to see a doctor.”
Live-in care workers have little autonomy to negotiate working patterns because they are domestic workers under the supervision of the families of the older people they care for.
Marco Perolini states, “In Europe, more and more people are working in precarious conditions, including in the care sector. Everyone has the right to be safe at work and to be paid fairly. We stand in solidarity with women migrants working as live-in carers, and call on the Austrian authorities to extend minimum wage protection and working hours’ protection to all live-in care workers, to strengthen labor inspections and to provide counselling and remedies for discrimination and abuse at work.”