European Borders, COVID-19, and the Economy of Home Care

Ursula Trummer, PhD (August 25, 2020)

This article examines the impact that COVID-19 has had on the movement of migrant healthcare workers throughout Europe. Dr. Trummer specifically focuses on how the shutting of borders (with a specific case study on the border between Romania and Austria) has restricted low-income 24-hour care providers who depend on free movement in order to complete their shifts:

“For the European Union, free movement of EU citizens within EU is an important element of the very idea of a united Europe. The right to freedom of movement is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). It states that “Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.”This should especially serve the further development of a European economy, where a European work force can fulfil labor market demands where needed across national borders.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic changed that. All of a sudden, the European Union got fragmented again into 28 national states each with their respective responses to the pandemic. National public health policies demanded the closure of national borders and overruled the freedom of movement. As health issues of EU member states are subject to national regulations, countries established different policies of border control and regulations on who is allowed to travel under which circumstances, and how matters of quarantine are handled. National borders were seen as the most important checkpoints for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
 
Ironically, this has a tremendous negative consequence especially for the health care sector in rich EU countries which depend on migrant health care workers. The closure of EU-internal borders furthermore revealed the relevance of a borderless EU for another important health issue: care for the elderly. Countries like Austria are characterized by an ageing population and consequently elder care, either in nursing homes or at home, has become a major challenge.”

Austria depends heavily on care providers from Romania, and COVID-19 has impacted their ability to travel immensely. Read the rest of the article for more detail.

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