Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state
healthy red heart and the inscription Thank you to doctors and nurses on a blue background. concept of gratitude to medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic

Migration, welfare, WELLMIG, and the pandemic

The new coronavirus pandemic has changed all our lives, all our societies – globally and all at once, and it...

By Marie Louise Seeberg

How it affects us depends who, and where, we are. At the moment, migration research or any other research that is not directly relevant to the pandemic may seem of little importance. Research projects that were started long before the pandemic and are by now almost complete may already seem obsolete. After all, how can knowledge about the old normal be relevant to the new normal?

A direct effect for the WELLMIG project is that we have, sadly, cancelled the final conference. Since this project was scheduled to end in 2020, our other remaining tasks that mostly have to do with writing can be done from our desks. However, for the questions and the people involved in the research, the implications reach further. In this post, I will attempt to outline a few of them.

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Work-life balance in care migration

For many Polish nurses, migration to Norway and attaining what they see as a Norwegian work-life balance has provided a...

By Marek Pawlak and Marie Louise Seeberg

In Poland, I worked as nurse in the operating theatre, orthopaedics ward and trauma and emergency room… altogether, it was 350 working hours per month. My husband was an ambulance driver, working 250 hours per month… We simply didn’t have a life in Poland, so at some point we’ve decided that this is too much to handle.

This is an excerpt from an ethnographic interview with Matylda, a Polish nurse working in a nursing home in a small town near Oslo. Matylda and her husband came to Norway in 2008 looking for a better life, economic stability and work quality. Being physically and mentally exhausted with work overload and deprived from a private family life, they found no other option then to try and make a living somewhere else.

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Emotions, Affects, and Care Migration

A blog post from Marek Pawlak about emotions and migration research - and differences between Polish and Norwegian nursing homes.

By Marek Pawlak

I was waiting for Joanna at the front door of a nursing home on the outskirts of Oslo. It was late afternoon and I was about to start my first ethnographic ‘shift’ in Hjerte. The idea was to follow a Polish nurse in her work place, chat about care, and observe nursing practices.

Although I am an experienced anthropologist, I felt nervous. I didn’t know what to expect.  More importantly, I had no clue how to behave in these new surroundings. I felt like an outsider about to disturb the nursing home’s routines, habits, and caring relationships. Before researching the contexts of care as part of the WELLMIG project, I always thought of a nursing home as a rather restricted and isolated place. And even though my ethnographic ‘shift’ has been agreed upon and scheduled, I believed I was trespassing.

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Nurse giving glass of water to elder woman seated in hospital bed.

Cancelled: WELLMIG final conference “Migration and Care Labor in Europe”

The WELLMIG Final Conference: Migration and care labor in Europe: Theory, research, and politics is cancelled.

Thank you for your interest in our final conference, which we have all been looking forward to. Sadly, the conference committee and I have come to the decision that due to the coronavirus pandemic we have to cancel the conference.

This was supposed to be a big event, and we see the risk as too high as things stand now. We have carefully considered changing it into an online event, but have come to the conclusion that given the unpredictable situation, even counting on the necessary technical support is too risky.

Stay safe –

Marie Louise Seeberg
Project leader WELLMIG

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The regimes of integration and housing

Sandlie has investigated the housing situation among nurses from Sweden, Poland, and the Philippines in Norway.

Importance of housing for integration

Housing is an important indicator for integration. Some structural features of the Norwegian housing market can be especially challenging for foreign workers. In Norway, often described as a nation of homeowners, owner-occupation is more or less the only tenure that can ensure households’ long-term stability on the housing market. The current rental sector is dominated by small-scale amateur proprietors, consisting of private individuals letting out a part of their own dwelling or an extra apartment they own.  The standard length of tenancy agreements is one to three years.

Although most Norwegian households become homeowners during their life course (about 80 percent), becoming a homeowner requires both equity and a regular income at a level that makes it possible to take out a bank loan. How immigrants solve such structural challenges in the housing market varies according to their individual circumstances. Their strategies differ according to the length of residence in Norway, family situation, assistance from employers, financial resources, and cultural and social resources.

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Our favourite reads in 2019

The WELLMIG team again takes stock of our reading during the past year. As in previous years, we have read...

Marie Louise Seeberg

Although I have not been reading with a conscious aim of learning about migration, I realize that I do travel through time and space a lot in my reading – Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the most extreme in that respect.

Then there are all the whodunits from around the world that I like to relax with. In 2019, I have been reading Chinese, Japanese, and Israeli ones in addition to Italian and Canadian. I chiefly enjoy these for the descriptions of everyday life and insights into how society works in other parts of the world. Other fiction, too, can be rewarding in that respect. For instance, Middle England by Jonathan Coe has helped me, and many others, along the way in trying to understand how Brexit could happen.

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New Article about Migrant Nurses in Norway

Looking past the typical categorizations of national identity, migrant, or nurse.

By Taylor Vaughn, Marie Louise Seeberg and Aslaug Gotehus

The very different laws and regulations shaping the migration and working patterns of Polish, Swedish, and Filipino nurses in Norway were a point of departure for our research. As expected, we found that these structural differences are greatest between the Swedish and Filipino nurses: Swedish nurse migration to Norway is actively supported through the Nordic co-operation while Filipino nurses face strict requirements both for immigration and for nurse registration.

The Concept of ‘Waiting’

Despite these drastic differences, we –surprisingly – found certain similarities in the experiences of the Filipino and Swedish nurses we interviewed. As our research progressed, we increasingly noticed the importance across national groups of family, of personal life goals, of money, and of a sense of moving forward in life.

In our recent article “Waiting: Migrant nurses in Norway,” we explore these similarities. In order to do that, we used the concept of “waiting.” This concept made it possible for us to have a broader perspective beyond the typical categorizations of national origin, migrant, or nurse. The commonalities in the types and length of waiting they experienced connect them across such categories, as individual people with their own particular experiences and thoughts.

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Geographic proximity matters

Geographic proximity between Poland and Norway affects Polish nurses’ lives and facilitates on-going mobility.

By Elżbieta M. Goździak and Izabella Main

In a recent blog post, Taylor wrote about the effects of the geographic proximity between Norway and Sweden on the lives of Swedish nurses who work in Norway, but continue to live, parent, and maintain meaningful relationships in Sweden. Taylor wondered whether the relative proximity of Poland and Norway, with frequent and cheap flights between the two countries, has similar consequences for Polish nurses employed in Norway.

Settled migrants and sojourners

Some of the Polish nurses we interviewed have settled permanently in Norway and brought with them their children and partners. In a couple of cases, they sought employment in Norway because they thought their children needing specialized medical attention would be better off in Norway than in Poland. On the other hand, many of the more recently arrived nurses see themselves as sojourners working in Norway to save money to buy a flat or a house in Poland and return home.

Going home between assignments

Whether they see themselves as permanently living in Norway or returning to Poland, the geographic proximity of the two countries affect many aspects of the nurses’ lives. Those who have secured their jobs with the help of recruitment agencies, often work on a series of short-term assignments with some “stand-by” times between the assignments.

Since many of the nurses working on contracts with recruitment agencies are provided with housing, they have to vacate the accommodations as they await a new placement. Most nurses go to Poland to stay with family if the “stand-by” time is longer than a couple of days. It is cheaper to book a flight and stay with parents or friends than to pay for a hotel in Norway. Short-term rentals in Norway are also not an option; they are both expensive and scarce.

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Nurse giving glass of water to elder woman seated in hospital bed.

Experiences of Immigrant Healthcare Assistants in Norwegian Elder Care. The Aging of the Norwegian Population

Vyda Hervie argues that quality care and quality employment are twin issues of social justice.

By Vyda Mamley Hervie

Norwegians are aging rapidly. As a result, there is an unprecedented demand for elder care workers, both in institutional settings and at home. The aging of the population coupled with a long-standing policy aimed at keeping remote areas of the country populated has resulted in a shortage of healthcare professionals in big cities and in rural areas. The one million people living in rural, often remote, areas of Norway are desperate for high quality care.

Striving for high quality elder care

Norwegian policy makers have been talking about quality in elder care for many years. In policy documents, such as the Care Plan 2020, the need for high standards of care is subject to intense scrutiny. Special attention is paid to the healthcare workforce in the plan.

In other words, quality care professionals and policy makers understand the importance of quality employment to the provision of quality care. The literature on quality of employment has long posited that policies of employment and relationships between employees are central to achievement levels among workers. Most of the crucial factors for employee well-being—e.g., professional development and good working conditions– are linked to increased productivity.

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Working in Norway, living in Sweden

Family obligations, staffing agencies, and traveling time all play a role in the working pattern and living situation of Swedish...

By Taylor Vaughn

Swedish nurses’ decisions to work in Norway are influenced by several factors. The geographic proximity is certainly important, but the flexibility provided by staffing agencies also makes working and having family in different countries possible. Higher wages make the jobs in Norway attractive and may, to a certain extent, alleviate the separation from loved ones.

Many Swedish nurses working in Norway do so through contracts with staffing agencies. Staffing agencies work closely with hospitals and other health care institutions to help them fill vacancies with qualified nurses. Those vacancies may be short-term, to cover positions of employees on parental or sick leave or on holiday, for example, or they may be longer-term.

Family obligations

So far, we have interviewed five Swedish nurses who worked in Norway at some point in their nursing career. All of them had families in Sweden and, for most, their familial obligations (to children or aging parents) and relationships prevented them from settling in Norway permanently, making these short-term positions highly attractive.

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