The strange case of immigrant carers and the elderly in Italy

By Maria Suelzu, Caritas Internationalis Advocacy Officer

On 26 May I went to the presentation of a book titled “Carers and elderly: a welfare service without future” here in Rome organised by the “Fondazione Don Liegro” and the “Provincia di Roma”.

In most western European countries, assistance and services for the elderly are in general provided in different forms by the public sector, while in Italy (as well as in Spain to some extent) the most common situation is for the elderly to become employers of their caretakers. More often than not these caretakers are immigrant workers. Thus both employer and employee come from a very fragile social situation, although for very different reasons.

The book is about the fact that this model is not sustainable in the long term. It was created to cope with a crisis situation, but the government, both central and local, should have a policy that takes into account that Italy is increasingly a country of elderly people that often are or become at some point not self sufficient.

Women migrants who take care of the elderly are called “badanti” in Italian. They come to Italy to support their families back home. However, by leaving their homes they destroy the social structure they support financially.

The governments in their countries of origin too should be planning long term. In some Eastern European countries in ten/fifteen years the population will have become aged the same way as in Italy, but there will not be enough young active population to take care of the elderly. Would assistance to the elderly be provided by immigrants from other parts of the world, thus contributing to the disruption of family life in other countries?

Unfortunately sometimes short-midterm solutions to a problem become a long term aberration, if authorities do not have long term planning to tackle problems that affect the population.
The book was published by “Edizioni Lavoro” and is available in Italian only at:

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Filed under Domestic servitude, Europe, Italy, Labor exploitation, Migration

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