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Biała emigracja: variegated mobility of Polish care workers

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This paper analyzes migration of Polish healthcare and eldercare workers since Poland's accession to the European Union. The research indicates that while many Polish doctors, nurses, and caregivers ‘left’ Poland, they did not necessarily ‘stay’ abroad. Contemporary Polish migration has become ‘liquid’ and has often taken on a form of ‘pendulum’ or ‘circular’ migration and, in some cases, transnational commuting, especially in the early years following Poland's accession to the EU. These patterns are particularly evident among healthcare and eldercare workers whose flexible working schedules or life stages allow for retaining employment positions and households in Poland while taking short-term or prolonged leave of absence to work abroad. The research also suggests that different migration patterns are related to the characteristics of the place of migrant origin and the geographic distance or proximity of the destination countries. Residents of border towns can easily commute to cities on the other side of the frontier, while those who want to work in geographically more distant countries and cities must, by necessity, consider longer-term or permanent arrangements. The analysis of the variegated mobility of elder care workers is situated in the context of policy discussions related to care drain and care supply as well as quality of migrant care.
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Keywords: Polish migration; eldercare migrant workers; mobility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2016

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