The psycho-social malaise of migrant private carers in Italy: a rampant, but hidden health demand

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Annavittoria Sarli


migrant, private care, health service, welfare, psycosocial malaise


Despite having become an essential part of the national welfare system, the Italian private care market has developed in a situation of institutional disengagement. As a consequence, this sector, which has a high presence of female migrant workers, is currently characterised by serious flaws. What are the consequences for the psycho-social well-being of migrant private carers (MPCs)? This article highlights and analyses the high correlation between migrant women’s involvement in the Italian private care market and their manifestations of psycho-social malaise, the latter being one of the main factors motivating the access to health services for MPCs employed in Italy. Based on qualitative data collected in Italy in 2009-2010: 32 in-depth interviews to MPCs, a focus group discussion involving seven MPCs, and 23 semi-structured interviews to providers working in close contact with MPCs, mostly in health services, it describes how the malaise of MPCs is generated, and how it is interpreted and expressed (or not expressed) by them. In particular, it investigates the social dynamics determining the latent nature of this phenomenon, and its tendency to work silently on MPCs’ subjectivities without coming to the attention of health services, which are therefore not able to prevent or limit its negative consequences. Nevertheless, this article also shows that this malaise sometimes surfaces in the health service (albeit too rarely, or too late) and how it is generally managed by health providers. In particular, a timely encounter with the health system involving  the simple externalisation and acknowledgement of this psycho-social malaise can have a crucial therapeutic value, meaningfully helping to prevent it from becoming a serious condition. On this basis, the importance is highlighted of creating channels for facilitating the meeting between this pressing but unexpressed health need and the institutions in charge of the health of society.


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