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Doing Family on the Move

Highly-Skilled Migrants in Switzerland and Germany

Florian Tissot

This book focuses on the coordination between family life and professional career under the condition of repeated mobilities. It analyses the division between the labour force work and the care work of couples of highly-skilled migrants settling in either Switzerland or Germany. A mutually exclusive model provides an innovative understanding of gendered hierarchies in career achievement. The male partners operate three parallel elements: an upward professional career, a family-life implying child(ren), and maintaining their availability to further unplanned relocations. The female partners can only coordinate two of these concurrently. In fact, the male partners combine the three elements by taking advantage of specific, and mostly invisible, care work that the female partner provides.

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5 Contextualising the Study

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5 Contextualising the Study

5.1 Contextualising the Researcher

By presenting my position as a researcher, I contextualise and objectify the conditions of elaboration of the study. The researcher undertaking fieldwork is not neutral. Rather, he or she influences and learns from the empirical material produced. This point is central. It not only justifies the “feedback loops” between the fieldwork and the analysis but also stresses that the same respondents would probably have answered differently to another researcher, in another place, at another time. Thus, the material collected in qualitative studies is highly contextual and relational. In this context, the researcher needs also to be contextualised. His or her endeavour to deconstruct or decentre cannot be fully understood without knowing from where he or she speaks. “What is his or her position?” and “who is he or she?” are central questions that once answered give the reader an opportunity to understand the context and the person creating the perspective of the deconstructive and decentring processes. Here, the researcher is historically, geographically, and socially situated. There is no such thing as a “disinterested researcher” floating above the world creating a “pure theory”. The researcher is part of the world and what he or she thinks is subordinated to his or her historically- and contextually-situated knowledge.

Doing this research implied moving. Being on the move myself certainly led me to better understand the challenges of coordinating family life and a professional career. I lived in different places in Switzerland and Germany during the time of this research, namely Neuchâtel, Lausanne, Frankfurt, Bochum, and Nurnberg. I moved for my own research, but also to live with my partner and then for the sake of her career. Thus, my partner and I faced some of the challenges that my respondents faced: finding a new flat in cities we did not know, discussing our next steps, our possible next move. Were we going to move if I found a position abroad? My personal situation helped me to understand the topic I was investigating from a subjective perspective. The down side of it is that I may see the world only for its migrants, those people who move for professional reasons, while such moves are not, in fact, the norm. In order to overcome this possible bias, I developed the term of “secondary-stayer” and referred explicitly to the term of “(im)mobility” (Wieczorek 2018). However, my empirical analysis strongly focuses on the people who move, which is a direct consequence of studying highly-skilled migration. Yet, it is important to remember that the bulk of the world is “sedentary” – only 7.5% of the total OECD countries was foreign born in 2000 (OECD 2008, 13). My study deals with a share of this ←115 | 116→population, namely the ones with tertiary education. That is, my study deals with an exception.

Furthermore, I am a Swiss national and a white male moving between Switzerland and Germany. My citizenship, my gender, and my ethnicity mean that I occupy a privileged position. Thus, I did not encounter administrative difficulties while settling into any place I chose to live. Also, I did not encounter the “controlling policies” of the nation-states; neither are visible in my work. In fact, for many of the respondents, such policies did not come up either, as most of them have a passport from a country of the “global North” and are white. This study is a study done by a privileged person on privileged persons. Yet, it is not only a question of privilege but also a question of power. For the most part, the respondents are powerful, in their organisation but also in the social world. In fact, their privileges are a mark of their power. Their economic capital, their position in the labour force, and their “family-strategies” all show that people around them often do what the respondents want. By decentring the analytical framework and the empirical analysis, I take this point into account. During my fieldwork, I systematically asked questions regarding the relationship with various state-bodies (Appendix 2: Interview Grid, Relationships with State-bodies, 329). The respondents did not really understand my question and were answering succinctly referring to a straightforward process. For the privileged ones, the “controlling state” is more a “welcoming state”: they are “wanted and welcome” (Triadafilopoulos 2013). It is important to remember that amongst the foreign-born population only a small portion is “wanted and welcome”: again, my personal situation and the situation of most of my respondents cannot be generalised and needs to be contextualised. I did not encounter a “frictionless mobility”. Other constraints, as I will show, emerged. In their case, however, the “controlling state” is mostly absent. As soon as we diverge a little from this pattern, the constraints of the “controlling state” appear. I interviewed respondents from Indonesia aiming to stay in Switzerland for the long term. In their case, the constraints imposed by a “controlling state” appeared in the interview; they are struggling, for instance, with the renewal of their residency permit, which will not be granted if they want to travel back to Indonesia. Otherwise, they run the risk of being refused at the border on their return to Switzerland. This challenge is beyond the scope of a lot of the other respondents.

The same can be said about discrimination, xenophobia, or racism: I do not face them personally in my daily life, and the same is probably true for many of the respondents. I asked questions about discrimination and xenophobia in the interviews. Some interviewees were shocked by the xenophobic rhetoric in many Swiss electoral posters but were also saying they did not feel targeted ←116 | 117→by these posters. The “migration binaries” act as a “category of practices” (Brubaker 2013) in which the respondents imply that they are part of the “us”, a form of “temporal adaptation” in Switzerland. Furthermore, their presence benefits the country, they argue. As soon as we diverge a little from this pattern, some respondents say they are victims of xenophobia. The respondents from the “global South” who are not embedded in a multinational company seem the most affected by it: for example, the partner of a Russian respondent who was asked to “go back home” in a supermarket. For those working for a multinational company, they are systematically referring to the “truly international ambiance” of their workplace and their lack of contact with the “local population”. Their partners, however, more often experience xenophobia and racism. This might explain why the “expat bubble” (Fechter 2007a) is so important to some of the respondents. It acts as a barrier against the xenophobia and the discrimination they could face in a new local space. Although I do not investigate this topic here, there is a lack of research dealing with the racism that highly-skilled migrants from the “global South” face while relocating to countries like Switzerland and Germany.

Another element which could influence the insights of this study is my position as a researcher in the field. I am not a colleague or a friend of the respondents but a student in sociology, specifically studying family relationships amongst couples of highly-skilled migrants. In chapter 7, I will discuss the discrepancies between the discourses and the practices of the respondents when it comes to displaying their families. I will interpret these discrepancies as the development of the respondents’ notions of what a “family should be” in 2018. Yet this insight shows an attempt on their part to provide a “good answer” to a sociologist working on family in 2018. Garfinkel notes that individuals (which includes those agreeing to participate in a sociological study) are not “cultural idiots” (Garfinkel 1986). I made a similar point with Papinot (2014) earlier. The moment of the interview is not “floating in a social zero gravity zone”. The respondents knew well with whom they were speaking. They knew from the moment they received the contact letter (Appendix 1: Contact Letter, 324). Thus, it may be the case that they “prepared” a discourse specifically adapted to answering the questions of a sociology student. Furthermore, I have my own opinions, in part, because of what I studied: sociology, and what I did not study: law, for instance. Therefore, I also have an idea of what “a good family should be”. In this work, I aim (as best as possible) to suspend my own judgement while developing the empirical analysis; however, it would be misleading to suggest that judgement didn’t enter into my work. The first empirical chapter, for instance, focuses on the work in the labour force of both partners, implying, in part, my normative conception of ←117 | 118→“what family should be”: that the two partners should work in the labour force. It replicates the same image of the family that some of my respondents provided during their interviews.

The following four points might influence the respondents’ discourse as well as the study as a whole. First, the matter of “nomadism”, as I call it, implying as it does that the whole world migrates, which is empirically not the case. My study deals with a specific population, which is not representative of the whole population. Not everyone is on the move. The second point refers to my experience of being a privileged person while moving from Switzerland to Germany and living in both Switzerland and Germany. The ease with which such moves were carried out might lead to an ignorance on the part of the researcher of the “controlling nation-states” when it comes to migration: a form of “methodological nationalism”. In this study, nation-states seemingly do not control or do not attach much importance to controlling privileged migrants. I see two reasons for that. It stems out of a political choice formalised in multilateral agreements like Schengen and the very conceptualisation of the study itself is a proposition to deal with privileged migrants. The third point deals with the other side of the coin, so to speak, concerning discrimination, xenophobia and racism. The fact that they are absent from this study does not mean that I did not ask the question. Furthermore, the fact that many respondents did not feel as though they were victims of racism, xenophobia, or discrimination tells us something about the structure of domination in contemporary societies. In this context, I have also suggested that the “migration binaries” are a “category of practice”. In other words, this point underlines my privileged position as well as the one of the respondents emphasising the need to deconstruct these categories as they convey a strong normative load. The fourth point refers to the fact that I presented myself as a researcher in sociology while asking for interviews. The respondents may have seen me as someone to whom “good” answers should be given and produce a particular discourse accordingly.

5.2 Contextualising the Lake Geneva Region and Frankfurt Rhine-Main Region

I decided to change my access to the field. Instead of focusing on four multinational companies, this work deals with the experience of highly-skilled migrants. Yet, an approach starting with the migrants themselves required another conceptualisation than, for instance, the “ethnic lenses”. In the theoretical part (3.3 Methodological Nationalism, 80), I showed the advantage of using the “cities as the entry points” – understood as “critical places” (3.3.1 Changing ←118 | 119→the Entry Points, 81) – to overcome the array of biases summarised under the term “methodological nationalism”. One of the keys to conceptualising my study is the process of “decentring”. Following this logic, I focus not just on one region but two, developing a study in which the knowledge of one region is “decentred” by another perspective, namely a second region. Thus, this study deals with the Lake Geneva region, Switzerland and Frankfurt Rhein-Main region, Germany. Though I conducted the bulk of the interviews in the Geneva region (30 interviews), I completed the corpus by undertaking six more interviews in the Frankfurt region. These last allowed me to see what is specific to the Lake Geneva or the Frankfurt Rhein-Main regions as well as what they have in common; the experience of highly-skilled migrants may differ, in some respects, when we change the place of investigation. I developed a “bi-local fieldwork” to be able to contextualise these differences. The “bi-local fieldwork” creates a more heterogeneous corpus of interviews. However, I do not develop a formal comparative analysis, but rather “decentre” my study to escape from the traps of “methodological nationalism”. Yet, the fact that I will not analyse the qualitative data in a comparative design does not mean that the sites where the respondents live at the time of the interview do not play a role. In fact, acknowledging the sites where the respondents live, addressing the central characteristics of these regions, and showing how they differ help to situate the conditions of production of the qualitative material. To present the context of the study, I will first paint a broad socio-economic portrait of these two regions. Then, I will focus on the “family policy” in these two regions, as the capacity of partners to arrange childcare after a relocation is central to understanding the “family-strategy”. In the discussion part (Chapter 10.1), I will rely on the elements I develop in the current chapter to show the differences between these two regions in terms of childcare and “family policy”.

←120 | 121→ ←121 | 122→

The three maps show the two regions where I conducted this study. First, Figure 9 is a general map of the “centre of Europe” showing Eastern France, Southwestern Germany, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, and a part of Austria, Belgium, and Italy. The Lake Geneva region (later on called the Geneva region) is in the western, French-speaking part of Switzerland, on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. It is the “metropolitan area” between Geneva and Montreux (Figure 10) and is made up of the Geneva and Vaud cantons. The Frankfurt Rhine-Main region is in Southwestern Germany. The official language is, unsurprisingly, German. This region (later on called the Frankfurt region) is comprised of the “large metropolitan area” of Frankfurt (Figure 11) and includes the cities of Frankfurt am Main, Darmstadt, Mainz, Offenbach, and Wiesbaden. Thus, the “large metropolitan area” of Frankfurt spans the German ←119 | 120→Bundesländer of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Bavaria. The city of Frankfurt am Main itself is the regional capital of Hesse. According to the definition of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “metropolitan areas” and “large metropolitan areas” are “functional urban areas” [FUA] with, respectively, “a population between 500’000 and 1.5 million people [for the ←122 | 123→“metropolitan areas”] and a population of 1.5 million people or more [for the “large metropolitan area”]” (OECD 2013). Furthermore, a “FUA consists of a city plus its commuting zone” (Eurostat 2017b) and a “commuting zone contains the surrounding travel-to-work areas of a city where at least 15% of their employed residents are working in this city” (Eurostat 2017a). In other words, the two entry points of this study are the “metropolitan area of Geneva” and the “large metropolitan area of Frankfurt”. Geneva and Lausanne actually represent two specific FUA, according to the conceptualisation of the OECD, but scholars in urban development refer to a single “metropolitan area” (Dessemontet, Kaufmann, and Jemelin 2010, 2975).

In 2014, out of the 1,238,831 inhabitants living in the Geneva region, 36.1% were foreigners (Rietschin and Imhof 2017, 4). Furthermore, for the same year, 42.8% of the total immigrants arrived for professional reasons (ibid). The Frankfurt region corresponds to the “Frankfurt Rhein-Main Metropolregion”, in which 5,525,603 people were living in 2009 (Bürgeramt, Statistik und Wahlen 2016, 43). Amongst them, 12.2% were foreigners (ibid). Both regions are characterised by the presence of international organisations (The UN in Geneva and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt) and multinational corporations (L’Oréal, Nestlé, Monsanto, Rolex, etc. in the Geneva region and AEG, Deutsche Bank, PwC, Lufthansa, etc. in the Frankfurt region). The two regions offer many professional opportunities for highly-skilled migrants, as both are well known economic hubs in Europe and the world. As is the case for the Geneva region, the Frankfurt region is richer and more expensive than the rest of the country. According to the Reports on prices and earnings (Höfert and Kalt 2015), the “net annual income” is higher in the Geneva region (128.3) than in the Frankfurt region (97.0) (100 being New York City [NYC]); yet, the prices (including rent) are also higher in the Geneva region (91.8) compared to the Frankfurt region (55.1) (100 being NYC) (2015, 6 – 11; thus, both regions provide a high “domestic purchasing power” to highly-skilled migrants. The professional opportunities and the relatively high standard of living render them attractive to highly-skilled migrants. Another similarity between the two regions are the economic promotion policies they use to attract foreign investment and to favour the settling of multinational companies in their territory. For the Geneva region, a whole network of private and public organisations develops the economic promotion (e.g. the “Greater Geneva Bern Area” (GGB) and the “service de la promotion économique et du commerce Vaud” [SPECo]). In Germany, similar organisations can be found such as the “FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH” responsible for the economic marketing of the region or the “Wirtschaförderung Frankfurt” in charge of ←123 | 124→economic development. Furthermore, both regions have an international airport and are “mobility nodes” with intercity trains reaching most of Western Europe.

5.2.1 Family Policy in the two Regions

In chapter 3, I decentred the research on highly-skilled migration through three “methodological premises”. When it comes to the “methodological nationalism”, I emphasised the necessity to acknowledge the nation-states without naturalising them. In this chapter, I have quoted the studies of Pfau-Effinger (1998) and Esping-Andersen (1990) to show that various “welfare state regimes” provide different types of support favouring or hindering the participation of women in the labour force. Doing so, I showed the relevance of considering the inner heterogeneity of “welfare state regimes” pointing to their subnational variations (Bühler and Meier Kruker 2002; Riaño et al. 2015). While chapter 3 was theoretical and aimed at developing a suitable approach to overcoming the “methodological nationalism”, the present section (section 5.2.1) is contextual and focuses on the support effectively available within these two regions. To do so, I will focus on the “family policy” in the two regions. Neyer (2003) defines the “family policy” as:

Policy that targets parenthood (…) most closely related to fertility: maternity policies, parental-leave policies, childcare services, and child benefits (Neyer 2003, 8).

I will present these policies at the national level, using the “OECD family database”37 and the country reports of Germany and Switzerland published by the Population Europe Resource Finder and Archive (PERFAR)38. To further contextualise my study, I will also focus on the specific Bundesländer and Cantons where this study takes place, by presenting the support concretely available in the two regions. To refer to the “family policy” in each specific region, I will speak of the subnational variation of the “family policy”. In other words, I will look at the possibilities – in terms of the support to the care work required to raise a child – highly-skilled migrants have when they settle in a local space after a relocation.

Harrison Villalba et al. (2012) distinguish “formal care”, “non-formal care”, and “informal care” (2012, 14). They define “formal care” as the “organized structure with qualified staff, at a day care centre or at an organized family day care” ←124 | 125→(ibid). “Non-formal care” implies “no organized structure and no notion of qualified staff, parents arrange for and pay the services directly to the nanny or care-giver” (ibid) and “informal care” corresponds to the “unpaid care provided by family and friends” (ibid). I will start by presenting the “family policy” and the “formal care” in the regions of Frankfurt and Geneva, then speak briefly about the “non-formal care” and “informal care” in these regions. In the last part of this subsection, I will propose the idea of “privatised formal care” to refer to international (semi-)privatised (pre-)schools. Over all, I ask the following question: what is the structure of the childcare in these two regions and what are the differences between them?

a. Formal care

Quoting Pfau-Effinger (1998) and Esping-Andersen (1990), I said that Germany and Switzerland have similar “welfare state regimes”, namely a “conservative-traditionalist welfare regime” (1998, 162). While the concepts they develop are going to be central for the next decades of research on the topic, the studies as such are quite old. Besides, the “welfare state regimes” encompass more than the family policy. In this subchapter, I specifically focus on the “family policy” and some of its elements, which have changed since then according to more recent studies. Andersen (2009) and Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser (2015) speak of the silent – yet incomplete – revolution of the family policy that has occurred in the last twenty years, in rich OECD countries. Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser (2015) stress the expansion of “family policy,” “leading to a socialisation of family care responsibilities, traditionally disproportionately performed by women” (2015, 23). They analyse the family policy in rich OECD countries and show that Germany undertook significant changes during the last two decades, emphasising an important increase in the public provision of childcare with consequent parental leaves (2015, 14). The “family policy” in Switzerland did not change significantly, constituting an exception amongst rich OECD countries. The Swiss family policy remains conservative with short maternity leaves, no paternity leave, and low public investment in childcare (2015, 16). Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser (2015) underline significant differences between Germany and Switzerland when it comes to the family policy. In the following paragraphs, I will show with examples what these differences are all about, focusing on the childcare provision, the parental leave system, and the schooling system available to highly-skilled migrants.

The childcare provision corresponds to the services provided to parents to ease the coordination between being at work in the labour force and doing the ←125 | 126→care work. It includes day nursery, kindergarten, pre-school, out of school care, etc. In Germany, children from age one are entitled to childcare, according to the Federal Social Security Law (Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB) - Achtes Buch [VIII])39. The effective attendance of children at day care (Kindertagesbetreuung) varies between the Bunderländer, because of historical reasons (the former socialist East has a more extensive day care program for young children). According to Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis), in Hessen (which is in the former West Germany), in 2013, 25.7% of the children between zero and two years old and 93.1% between three and five attend a day care centre (Kindertageseinrichtungen) (compared to respectively 57.7% and 95.5% in Saxony-Anhalt (a former East socialist Bundesland) (Destatis 2014). Radenacker (2014) stresses that these numbers hide the fact that the vast majority of the children attend day care on a part-time basis. In fact, 75% of the children attending day care spend less than seven hours per day in day care (Radenacker 2014). As we shall see, the possibility of having parental leave influences the rate of attendance of young children.

In Switzerland, unlike in Germany, there are no legal provisions to enforce day care. At the federal level, only a federal law gives an incentive to the cantons to develop day care solutions on their territory. It is called the Federal Law on Financial Aid for Non-Family Homes for Children (Loi fédérale sur les aides financières à l’accueil extra-familial pour enfants)40. Article 1 paragraph 1 of this law aims at “favouring a better coordination between family life and professional life or studies”. This law does not create any legal obligation to the Cantons but rather gives incentives to develop better day care solutions throughout the country. The Cantons are responsible for implementing the day care solutions. For historical reasons, the Cantons are responsible when it comes to education: the Swiss constitution safeguards the prerogative of the Cantons to organise public education, including day care. The result is that there is no harmonised policy at the national level. Zufferey and Widmer (2014) note that parents across Switzerland do not have equal access to childcare. In the Canton of Vaud 27.2% of the children between zero and four years attend a preschool day care centre, in 2017. It is 7.2% more than in 2010, showing that the development of pre-school day centres is an important aspect of the Canton of Vaud’s family policy. ←126 | 127→Furthermore, 14.5% attend an out of school day care centre (Statistique Vaud 2017). In Geneva, the numbers are similar (30.9% for the children between zero and four years attend a preschool day care centre, in 2017) (Statistique Genève 2017). This rate is on the rise, too. Still, the Swiss figures are significantly lower than the German ones, especially if, as we shall see, parental leave is taken into consideration. In fact Switzerland has the third lowest enrolment rate for pre-primary education for three to five year old children amongst all the OECD countries (just above Greece and Turkey) (OECD 2016, 6).

There is not only the enrolment rate but also the costs for the parents as well as the waiting period for access to any form of day care support. The figures of the OECD are striking in this regard, as the “Gross fees for two children (age 2 and 3) attending full-time care at a typical childcare centre, as % of average earnings, in 2015” is 70.3% in Switzerland against 10.5% in Germany (OECD 2017a)41. In other words, it is comparatively much more expensive to send children to a day care centre in Switzerland than in Germany. Furthermore, the waiting time reflects an insufficient offer in terms of day care services. According to a study of the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, in the Canton of Vaud, 21.2% of the demand for day care centre is not satisfied in the city-centres, in 2012 (Bonoli and Vuille 2013, 47). This figure reaches 32.1% for children under 2 years old (2013, 48). In Germany, 13.3% of the demand is not satisfied, in 2016 (IWD 2017). In Hesse, 13.7% of the children under the age of three did not find day care though their parents were actively looking for one (ibid). It means 293,486 missing places for the country and 23,049 in Hesse (ibid). All in all, there are significant differences between the two regions. The Frankfurt region has a higher enrolment rate for preschool day care centres than the Geneva region, and it is cheaper for the parents to send their child there. Though the figures show an increase of available places in the Geneva region.

Concerning the parental leave system, the differences between the two regions are striking. In short, the parental leave system is more developed in Germany than in Switzerland. The results of Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser (2015) reflect these difference. The OECD (2017b) distinguishes several forms of parental leave. The most current forms of parental leave systems are the maternity leave, the paternity leave, and the parental leave. The maternity leave corresponds to the “employment-protected leave of absence for employed women at around ←127 | 128→the time of childbirth, or adoption” (OECD 2017b, 1); the paternity leave refers the “employment-protected leave of absence for employed fathers at or in the first few months after childbirth” (ibid); and the parental leave is defined as the “employment-protected leave of absence for employed parents, which is often supplementary to specific maternity and paternity leave periods, and frequently, but not in all countries, follows the period of maternity leave” (ibid)42. Switzerland has a statutory maternity leave arrangement of 16 weeks, 14 of them being paid at 80% of the last income up to a ceiling of 196 Swiss francs per day (OECD 2017b, 16). In Switzerland, there is neither paternal nor parental leaves, or to put it in the OECD’s language: “no statutory entitlement” (ibid). In Germany, the system proposes more possibilities for the parents. The idea is that the parents can freely share the 12 months they are entitled to after the birth of a child (BMFSFJ 2017). In fact, if they decide not to share, the mother receives 12 months and if they do share the care it can be divided between 14 months. This system is called the Elterngeld. Another option is the ElterngeldPlus, which is longer and offers parents the possibility to reduce their work week and to receive the insurance for the day spent doing care work for the child. Thus, while both possibilities maintain the working contract, the basic Elterngeld implies a concrete break from the labour force to fully undertake care work for the child/ren: a 100% break for at least a month, so to speak. The ElterngeldPlus offers the possibility to work part time in the labour force and receive benefits to compensate for the reduction of professional activity. In other words, the partners can divide the care work between them, reducing their activity in the labour force without fully stopping it43.

Such programs do not exist in Switzerland. Here, (a lack of childcare provision combined with nearly non-existent parental leave), it is the women who most often do the care work for the children. The lack of available places in day care centres combined with a weak maternity leave system, and non-existent ←128 | 129→paternity and parental leave systems impact mostly on the female partner, as she is the one who does the care work in the absence of day care arrangements and support from the father. In these conditions, the male partner is free to continue his professional career.

Based on statistics of the Canton of Vaud, Figure 12 exemplifies that with the arrival of a child care work is predominantly undertaken by women. Thus, women raising a child between zero and six years old spend 61 hours per week doing the care work: twice as much as their male counterparts who spend 33 hours. The difference works the other way around, as men with a child between zero and six years old spend 38 hours per week in the labour force. More than twice the time that women spend (15 hours). But that is not all, as – according to the same study – many women doing care work say that it restrains their professional activity. In fact, according to Imhof (2015, 33), 38% of them say they are restricted in their professional activity because they do the care work for the child/ren. They would prefer to have access to day care. Comparatively, the figure is only about 10% for men (2015, 33). These statistics show that the lack of day care options in the Geneva region predominantly impact the professional ←129 | 130→activity of the women. It is primarily they who do the care work until a day care solution is found, not the men.

In sum, the family policy – grounding the “formal care” – is more developed in Germany than in Switzerland, introducing an important distinction between the Frankfurt and the Geneva regions. However, highly-skilled migrants arriving in a new country typically do not have access to the full package of “formal care”. The access depends on multiple factors, such as the country of origin, where the person already contributed, etc. While presenting the “dual labour market theory” (Piore 1979; Berger and Piore 1980), I showed the distinction between the “primary sector” and the “secondary sector” of the labour market. According to this theory, migrants typically hold positions in the “secondary sector”. Highly-skilled migrants are a liminal case, as they usually have positions considered to be in the “primary sector”. The fact that they are a liminal case raises questions that my study seeks to clarify. One could ask, for instance, how does the “formal care” happen under the conditions of repeated professional mobility? When one partner resigns to follow the other partner for the sake of his or her professional activity, is this person going to receive “formal care” services? If not, how does the partners coordinate and organise the care work? As we shall see in the empirical part, the individual situations are diverse, and it is difficult, if not impossible to bring clear cut answers to these questions. It will depend on the “family-strategy” that the partners adopt while settling in a new local space, I will argue. However, the local conditions and the access to “formal care” is a central consideration for partners making decisions concerning the division between the work in the labour force and the care work.

b. Informal and Non-Formal Care

In the context of “informal care”, I have shown the relevance of the “economy of kinship”, yet this once again replicates gender hierarchies, as it is most often the female relatives who contribute to the care work. I have already mentioned this in the previous chapter (3.2.2 The Hidden Economy of Kinship, 77). In the empirical chapters, we shall see the difficulty of developing “informal care” practices for families who are frequently mobile for professional reasons. Relating to “informal care”, the relevance of the so-called “expat bubbles” may correspond to practices of “informal care”, whether it is in the Frankfurt or the Geneva region.

When it comes to the “non-formal care”, the partners can find “private care arrangements”. There is the possibility to hire an au pair or a nanny. We shall see in the empirical part that it is a common way to compensate for the lack of “formal care” when both partners want to continue to work in the labour force. ←130 | 131→These practices are, however, not specific to highly-skilled migrants44. Websites such as Motherworld45 in Germany or Ma Nanny46 links potential employer and employee for the provision of child care. There is also the possibility to hire an au pair. This possibility is limited due to the need to speak the language spoken in the region; that is French in the Geneva region or German in the Frankfurt region. It is difficult to spot differences between the Frankfurt and the Geneva regions when it comes to the “non-formal care”.

c. Privatised Formal Care

Another possibility is to mobilise organisations dedicated to highly-skilled migrants, namely a specific form of “migration industry” (Groutsis, Broek, and Harvey 2015). For Hernández-León, a “migration industry” corresponds to “the ensemble of entrepreneurs who, motivated by the pursuit of financial gain, provide a variety of services facilitating human mobility across international borders” (2013, 156). Thus, they are “private organisations” facilitating settlement in a new local space after a relocation. Initially, the concept of “migration industry” was mostly used in the context of “undocumented migration” (Gammeltoft-Hansen and Sorensen 2013; Hernández-León 2013; Salt and Stein 1997). Scholars have only recently started to study it to better understand the nexus of organisations surrounding highly-skilled migration such as relocation offices, outplacement agencies, and international schools (Groutsis, Broek, and Harvey 2015; Tissot 2018). Both the Geneva and the Frankfurt regions offer international schools, European schools or non-German or -French speaking (semi-)private (pre-)schools. An advantage of these schools and pre-schools is that some offer an education in English or another non-local language, though English is the most common. However, private international (pre-)schools are expensive and without the support of the employing company, difficult to afford. The annual gross fees for a child (age two and three) attending full-time care at a private childcare centre is 18,860 euros at the Frankfurt International School47. ←131 | 132→In the International School of Geneva, the annual tuition fee for one child between the age of two and three is 27,060 Swiss francs48. In both regions, what I call the “privatised formal care” is expensive. In fact, the international schools are amongst the most expensive while other schools such as the European school in Frankfurt is more affordable49. In the Geneva region, the network of private school is – for historical reasons – quite developed. Nevertheless – and as we shall see in the empirical part – these schools are often full, or at least a place for the children is not necessarily immediately available: in other words, these (pre-)schools have waiting-lists, too. For many respondents, finding a day care centre or a school for the child/ren after a relocation is a major challenge, regardless of the kind of care they are looking for. In fact, they often take what is available.

Although, the two regions share large socio-economic similarities, when it comes to the “family policy”, I see significant differences: it is a key reason why I chose them. The Frankfurt region has a more developed “family policy” than the Geneva region. In these conditions, I expected it to be easier for the parents to find suitable day care arrangements in the Frankfurt region than in the Geneva region. I have not developed a comparative study which would imply a systematic review of the samples, but rather I used the region of Frankfurt as a “shadow case” to have another point of view on my data. Though both regions offer many professional opportunities for highly-skilled migrants, the differences between them can be found at the level of the “family policy”. Thus, by having two entry points in two regions which have different “family policy” is a way to decentre my study as I can conceptualise the nation-state in which the migrants are embedded without naturalising it. This allows me to grasp the contrasts between the two localities. Spotting similarities and differences between the lived experiences of highly-skilled migrants in two regions strengthens the results of the study, as similar social processes in two localities are less likely to be only typical for the very location the investigation takes place. The recurrence of similar challenges in the two localities speaks in favour of a phenomenon less likely to be typical of one location. In other words, using two cities as entry points broadens the relevance of the results as it allows the researcher to take a greater distance with the singularity of each city. By doing so, I am able to reassess and contextualise the ←132 | 133→interviews. These two cities allow me to produce a more solid theoretical framework that deploys a broader empirical scope, enhancing the validity of my results (by overcoming methodological nationalism) and broadening the scope of my research (by a bi-local framework). In the methodological section, I have not only contextualised the study itself, but I have shown how I developed the structure of the empirical part around three chapters: the practices, the narratives, and the strategies.

←133 | 134→

37 Website of the OECD Family Database, retrieved August 6, 2018, from

38 Website of the Population Europe Resource Finder & Archive (PERFAR), retrieved August 6, 2018, from

39 Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB) - Achtes Buch (VIII) - Kinder- und Jugendhilfe - (Artikel 1 des Gesetzes v. 26. Juni 1990, BGBl. I S. 1163). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

40 Loi fédérale du 4 octobre 2002 sur les aides financières à l’accueil extra-familial pour enfants (LAAcc) ; RS 861. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

41 These statistics are for Zurich in Switzerland and Hamburg in Germany. Thus, they are not completely accurate for the Geneva region and the Frankfurt region but rather gives some idea.

42 What is important in law is relatively easy. The specifics of these maternity, paternity, and parental leave systems are, however, complex and involve a lot of actors, covering a lot of individual cases. One could write a whole dissertation on this topic. For the present work, I made the decision to present only the general aspects of these systems.

43 For more information on the parental leave arrangements possible in Germany, see Elterngeld, ElterngeldPlus und Elternzeit: Dans Bundeselterngeld- und Elternzeitgezetz, (2018) Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from

44 This topic corresponds to the “global care chains” developed by, amongst others, Amelina (2016) or the “transnational care work” developed, amongst others, by Shilliger (2013). These studies focus on migrants doing the care work in Western Europe.

45 Website of Motherworld, retrieved August 6, 2018, from

46 Website of MaNanny, retrieved August 6, 2018, from

47 Website of the Frankfurt International School, retrieved August 6, 2018, from

48 Website of the International School of Geneva, retrieved August 6, 2018, from

49 Website of the Europäische Schule Frankfurt am Main, retrieved August 6, 2018, from