Migration and care work in Norway and the United Kingdom

Findings from a preliminary analysis

This Social Care Workforce Research Unit report (see below) is based on a preliminary analysis of 47 life course interviews related to a study of migrant care workers in the UK and Norway and it is a contribution to the understanding of migrants’ ways into and experiences of care work. Findings presented in this report are related to migration, care work and gender. The study shows that a ‘migratory mind’ is often developed early on and makes these individuals ready to leave their home country. While settlement seems to be a more widespread option among the study’s participants in Norway, the UK case presents a mixed picture in this matter because many migrant care workers seem to go forth and back between the UK and their home country. One key problem we find – also in Norway in spite of settlement – is related to the host country’s language, because this plays a key role regarding social inclusion in general.

The care work our study focuses on in particular is that organised through cash-for-care schemes, currently called personal budgets in the UK. These are aiming at giving people more influence on the content of the support they pay for and in the employment of ‘their’ care worker(s). We find that this type of care work – which basically takes place in disabled and older people’s homes – has a complex character in terms of attracting migrant women and men from working and middle class, the latter even more in Norway. This means that rather than upwards social mobility, care work implies downwards mobility for many migrant care workers.

Although the majority of workers taking part in the transnational care labour market (including countries outside their home country when looking for work) are women, increasingly care work also attracts migrant men. But for men the choice of doing care work at some point is still a less traditional role and may be one that is not consciously planned. We therefore find higher expectations of how this work should contribute to a personal career among the female migrant care workers, in particular in Norway. Simultaneously, this means that the dissatisfaction with this work seems to be stronger among female workers.

Report based on preliminary analysis

Christensen, K. & Guldvik, I. (2013) ‘Migrant care workers’ lived experiences in the UK and Norway. Report of the research project: Welfare policy and care work: a cross-national Norwegian / UK study of migrants in care work’, London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London.

About this project

Funding and duration

The project was funded by the Meltzer Foundation, Norway in the period 1 August 2011 to 30 September 2012. The project is ongoing and further publications are planned in 2013/14.


Karen Christensen (project contact) is professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway. Professor Christensen joined the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London as a Visiting Research Fellow in September 2011 and the UK part of the project was conducted during her stay. Her co-author is Ingrid Guldvik of Lillehammer University College.


For more on the background and aims of this study see the Progress Report from August 2012.