S. van der Geest
- How migrants keep Italian families Italian: badanti and the private care of older people
- International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
- Volume | Issue number
- 13 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
The purpose of this paper is to describe how migration affects the care of older people in Italy.
The paper is based on anthropological fieldwork by one of the authors. This consisted of in-depth interviews with 20 “badanti” (migrant caregivers), with relatives of older people and with social workers in the city of Verona, Italy. It further included extensive study of secondary materials on the topic of migrant care of older people.
Badanti, Italian families and older people find themselves locked in an uneasy contract: badanti because they are exploited and often unable to find better, formal employment; Italian families because they are aware that they fail to render their moral duty to their aged parents and grandparents; and older people because they feel neglected and maltreated by their children. Yet the three parties also rely on each other to make the best of a precarious situation. The relationship between badanti and Italian elderly highlights the contradictions within Italian politics on care and migration. This case study shows how migrants help Italian families to hold on to the tradition of family care for ageing parents.
The small sample of badanti and families provides a detailed and profound insight of the complexity of elder care in Italy but does not allow generalisation for developments in the country as a whole.
Policy makers should take notice of the indispensability of informal migrant care in present day Italy.
The originality of the paper lies in the in-depth conversations with badanti and in the way in which elderly care is contextualised in the Italian tradition of care and present day politics.
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