The role of Migrant Health and Social Care Workers in Ageing Societies 2007 - 2009


This international collaborative project examined the future need for migrant care workers in the context of ageing societies. It explored the employment of migrant workers in the delivery of health and social care to older people across the UK, the USA, Ireland and Canada, with the project team comprising researchers from COMPAS, the Institute for the Study of International Migration (Georgetown University), the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (National University of Ireland), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Community Health Research Unit (Ottawa University). These countries are of particular interest given that the migration of native care workers between the four sites has been considerable in the past, and each nation is now thought to be a significant participant in the global migration of care workers. The four countries also represent an interesting blend of established and recent immigration. However, the full extent of the roles migrant care workers play in the delivery of care in the context of an ageing society remained relatively unknown.

Focusing on the UK, and in most detail on the situation in England, COMPAS researchers investigated the current and potential future demand for migrant carers in an ageing society; the experiences of migrant care workers, their employers and of older people in residential and home care settings; and the implications of these findings for the social care of older people and for migration policy. The research sought not only to address the important gaps in knowledge about the role of migrant care workers in the care of older adults in the home and long term care sectors in the UK, but also to provide comparative data to the situations in Ireland, Canada and the US.

Principal Investigator

Sarah Spencer


Bridget Anderson
Alessio Cangiano
Vanessa Hughes
Isabel Shutes
Lourdes Gordolan (Kalayaan, London)
Kenneth Howse (Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford)
George Leeson (Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford)
Jo Moriarty (King’s College London)


The Atlantic Philanthropies
Nuffield Foundation

Professionals' Advisory Group

Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford
Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), Georgetown University
Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG), National University of Ireland, Galway
Community Health Research Unit, Ottawa University
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
King’s College London
Kalayaan, London


CareGeneration and Life courseLow Skilled MigrationPolicies


EuropeThe Americas


The research drew on analysis of national data sets on the social care workforce, including the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the National Minimum Dataset for Social Care (NMDS-SC). New data was provided by a postal and online survey, conducted between January and June 2008, of 557 employers of care workers, including managers/owners of residential and nursing homes and home care agencies, followed by 30 in-depth telephone interviews with selected participants. Face-to-face interviews were also conducted between June and December 2007 with 56 migrant workers employed by residential or nursing homes, agencies or directly by older people or their families.

Five focus group discussions were held with 30 older people, including current and prospective users of care provision. Projections of the future demand for care workers in older adult care were carried out, focusing on the potential contribution of the migrant workforce. Briefing papers were commissioned from experts on the structure of the health and social care systems and trends in the social care workforce; and a series of seminars and discussions were held with individuals working in the sector or as policy makers. An international advisory group provided guidance and feedback on the draft report.