An ESRC study (January 2008-March 2010), directed by GEA member Sondra Cuban (Lancaster University), entitled Home/Work: The Roles of Education, Literacy, and Learning in the Networks and Mobility of Migrant Carers has just been completed. The research examined migrants with a high degree of professional expertise and tertiary education who worked in the social care industry. Migrant social care workers, mostly women, were interviewed including nurses and domestics across the UK, to understand their strategies and opportunities for advancement, as well as their lives, networks, and identities. In contrast to the minor role awarded to education in migration research, this study focused on the roles of education, literacy, and learning in these largely female migrants’ networks and paths of social mobility.
Known for its poor working conditions, the care sector has failed to attract British-born workers. With a burgeoning ageing population, migrants, who believe these jobs are steppingstones into the professions, fill the gap. This study considers the consequences of recruiting mainly female skilled migrants for work that does not require high education levels, and the supports and barriers they experience in integrating into their workplaces and communities, as well as leveraging their opportunities to advance.
Considerable deskilling and workplace exploitation was discovered to the point where few participants progressed their careers. Women migrants’ home and work lives became one in the same due to the long hours they spent in both paid and unpaid care which diverted them from acquiring necessary supports to advance. Training courses, when available, were inappropriate and far from moving upwards, these workers became downwardly mobile. Their high levels of digital literacy, academic and technical skills, professional dispositions and expertise were not recognised in trainings or jobs, although it was by clients in communities. The study revealed significant brain waste amongst a hidden and talented workforce where their higher education neither safeguarded them from mistreatment nor assisted them in career advancement.