Transnational Caregiving: Part 1, Caring for Family Relations across Nations

Article excerpt

This article concerns how globalization and the aging of the world's population are affecting the already complex issue of intergenerational transnational caregiving. Globalization has caused an increase in workforce mobility with large numbers of individuals seeking employment overseas. This, coupled with increased longevity globally, has resulted in many workers leaving their elderly parents in need of care in their home countries. This has spawned caregiving across national borders, or caring for family relations across nations. Currently in the United States, not enough emphasis is given to family caregiving. Data compiled by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimate the economic value for this group of family caregivers in 2007 to be $375 billion, accounting for 34-52 million family caregivers per given year. This does not include those families who are transnational caregivers. The seminal work in this emerging field has been done by social anthropologists Loretta Baldassar, Cora Velekoop Baldock, and Raelene Wilding, who have defined the components of transnational caregiving based on an ethnographic study using qualitative data to study nine immigrant communities in Western Australia. Although their research focused on caregiving from a distance, additional work has been added to the discussion by introducing the element of "care drain" and further cultural perspectives. Therefore, this research is an exploratory study on intergenerational transnational caregiving within the context of the changing world and its demographics. Within the context of globalization and global aging, the following questions are addressed: What is the significance of family caregiving? What is a transnational? How has technology changed "transnationalism" today? What are the elements that comprise transnational caregiving? How does culture play a role in transnational caregiving? What are some of the national initiatives undertaken by governments to aid in workforce issues and recognition of caregiving organizations? By exploring these questions, it is hoped that there will be a better understanding of transnational caregiving and its relevance in all societies.1

Every individual will be a caregiver or a recipient of care at some point in the continuum of life (AARP International, 2008b). Although family caregiving, which includes friends and neighbors, is a universal obligation recognized by all cultures of the world, it remains under the radar with little acknowledgment or formal recognition by governments, employers, and society. In addition to providing assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs), such as housework, grocery shopping, assistance with toileting, cooking, and medical visits, the contributions made by these informal caregivers include health-related services that lay the groundwork for long-term care. The services provided allow many elderly, including individuals with disabilities, to remain in their homes for longer periods rather than being institutionalized.


To illustrate the impact of informal family caregiving on countries and society is to recognize its economic component. In the United States, research in this area appropriates the cost of this unpaid demographic at $370 billion, accounting for 34-52 million family caregivers per given year (Gibson & Houser, 2008). Regionally, New York State accounts for 1.9 million family caregivers providing for $20.4 billion of the national total. This far exceeds the cost ascribed to the combination of nursing home and formal inhome care services (Levine, 2006). In the United Kingdom, the monetary savings to the country by caregivers is approximately £110 billion. Meanwhile, politicians acknowledge that there is no giveback in terms of benefits (Pitkeathley, 2008). Carers UK estimates that in 20 years, there will be an additional 3 million careers needed to provide the same level of care that is being offered today (Pitkeathley, 2008). …


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