A ‘career shift’? Bounded agency in migrant employment pathways in the aged care and early childhood education and care sectors in Australia

Myra Hamilton, Elizabeth Hill, Elizabeth Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Unlike many countries in Europe and North America, Australia does not directly recruit migrants to work in frontline aged care and early childhood education and care (ECEC). However, employment data shows that a large proportion of people working in these two care sectors are migrants. Little is known about how migrants make their way into the ECEC and aged care sectors in Australia. Drawing on qualitative interviews with migrants working in three cities, this paper explores the pathways of migrants into care work in Australia. It uses the concept of bounded agency to illustrate how migrants articulate agency within constrained employment opportunities. It finds that participants experience a heavily constrained sense of agency upon arrival in Australia due to lack of skills recognition and English language proficiency. Our data shows that, over time, participants mobilise existing resources–and acquire new ones–to develop new frames for action that culminate in what they describe as a ‘career shift’ into employment in formal care settings. Our data sheds new light on the way in which migrant care workers, through this process, are able to negotiate a sense of agency and pursue employment preferences, within a context of constraint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3059-3079
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Volume47
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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