Markets, Migration & the Work of Care in Australia is an Australian Research Council-funded project being conducted by a research team across four institutions: UNSW, RMIT, University of Sydney, and University of Toronto. It is being led by four Chief Investigators: Professor Deborah Brennan (UNSW)Professor Sara Charlesworth (RMIT)Dr Elizabeth Hill (Sydney), and Professor Ito Peng (Toronto).

What's new


In recent decades, the shift to the market with the introduction of cash payments and consumer-directed care have created new employment relationships and service demands in childcare and aged care, such as nannies and home-based personal carers for the elderly. It is unclear who will staff these emerging care markets, especially the non-professional jobs that are low paid and regarded as low skilled. One response – widespread in Europe and North America – is to turn to migration. Should Australia follow this path? What practical and ethical issues are raised by care migration?

Project aims

This three year Australian Research Council Discovery project aims to

  1. Explore the emerging connections between care marketisation, employment regulation and migration and how these impact on care workers, service users and industries in Australia
  2. Investigate the paths through which migrants enter aged care and childcare employment in Australia (in the absence of dedicated care migration)
  3. Advance theoretical understandings of the links between care, employment and migration through a multi-level analysis of the Australian case in cross-national perspective
  4. Inform Australian and international policy debate by designing policy benchmarks that will inform the development of sustainable care systems that promote decent work and high quality care.

Project strands (2016-2018)

Strand 1: Analysis of Australian care markets, employment and migration regulation and policy

This strand will map the shifts in care policies and financing mechanisms since the late 1980s that underpin current Australian aged care and childcare provision. It will also map relevant trends in labour regulation and migration.

Strand 2: Cross-national perspectives on care markets, employment regulation and migration

This strand focuses on New Zealand and Canada to draw out similarities and differences with Australian care markets, employment and migration regulation and policy with Australia, focusing on the lessons to be learned from the distinctive practices of each country.

Strand 3: The migrant and careworker experience in Australia

This strand will investigate, through data analysis and in-depth interviews, the pathways through which migrant workers find employment in childcare and aged care and the lived experiences of those undertaking this work.

Project team

For a project taster, watch ‘The truth about our care workers’

Research Centre

Social Policy Research Centre

Research Area

Care | Policy Design, Impact and Evaluation

Australian Research Council – Discovery Program