Live-in carers have been neglected for too long. They deserve full recognition and rights
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted an opinion on the rights of live-in care workers. It urges policy-makers to fully recognise their contribution to long-term care, to treat them in a similar way to other care providers and to regularise the status of undocumented workers.
An ageing population and cuts in public-sector spending have created a shortfall in the provision of long-term care. While live-in care workers – who are often unregulated – have helped to alleviate acute labour shortages in this sector, many work in precarious labour conditions including bogus self-employment. Eastern Europe supplies many live-in care workers to other countries, despite a depleted domestic care workforce, and if fired, these workers can find themselves homeless.
“In the context of a poorly recognised and remunerated care workforce, live-in care workers have for too long remained invisible to policy-makers,” says Adam Rogalewski, EESC Rapporteur on the opinion.
Full recognition and rights
At present, there is no EU-level legislation on this and no proposals in the pipeline. As a first step, the EESC wants to start a discussion on a common occupational definition of “live-in” care work in Europe. This should recognise live-in care as a form of homecare provision and cover employment arrangements for workers living in private residences. The EESC believes that live-in care workers should be treated as part of the system of long-term care provision, with similar rights as other care workers when it comes to remuneration, health and safety protection, social security and the right to freedom of association.
In practice, this means:
- including the rights of live-in carers and their care recipients in future revisions or proposals of European and Member States’ legislation,
- monitoring and improving posting of live-in carers by implementing the principle of equal pay for equal work,
- tackling social dumping and exploitation,
- proactively regulating the long-term care sector, especially in relation to compliance with employment laws, to ensure care recipients as well as live-in care workers are protected.
- achieving Member State ratification and implementation of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 189 to regularise the status of live-in care workers.
In addition, significant numbers of these workers possess skills and qualifications resulting from years of experience or from unrecognised formal training and certification programmes. These should be recognised. Financial support for patients relying on live-in care workers must also be met through adequate long-term and sustainable public investment.
The role of civil society
In order to effect these changes, trade unions, employers and civil society organisations need to get involved in policy planning. A major achievement of the EESC’s opinion is that it successfully brought together advocates for a sustainable and equitable long-term care sector with labour and migrant rights advocates.
The EESC plans to build on this and promote the development of European policies that support carers, care recipients and their families by, amongst other things, organising a conference on the future of live-in care work in Europe in the second half of 2017 to discuss concrete steps towards properly regulating the sector.
“We believe that investment in long-term care needs to be embraced positively as an economic opportunity and as a priority area for job creation, social support for families and gender equality,” says Rogalewski. “Investment in the sector enhances workforce participation rates and provides a possible way out of the economic crisis.”