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Accepted Paper:

Transnational mobility and return migration of “essential workers”: Care, work, and mobility among Bulgarian (ex-)migrant workers  
Moyuru Matsumae (Waseda University)

Paper short abstract:

Recently, many workers from Bulgaria have been employed as "essential workers" abroad. However, some of them have decided to return to Bulgaria during the pandemic. This paper aims to explore how the pandemic has affected their attitudes towards migration, work, and care from a feminist perspective.

Paper long abstract:

Does the Covid-19 pandemic have effects on attitudes of Bulgarian migrant workers towards mobility, work, and care? Since the early 2000s, particularly after Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, many workers from Bulgaria have been employed in construction, seasonal agriculture, and care work outside the country. However, between 2020 and 2023, many still worked abroad as "essential workers", while some decided to return to Bulgaria. In the rural areas in Northern Bulgaria, where I have conducted long-standing fieldwork, a part of migrant workers, including a few women who had worked abroad as live-in caregivers, have returned home, and resumed their lives.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected their decision to continue working abroad, or to return home? Based on interviews with Bulgarian (ex-)migrant workers who have over a decade of experience in working outside the country as "essential workers", such as caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers, or truck drivers, this paper aims to reveal how the pandemic has impacted the lives of these various types of "essential workers" and to explore whether it has altered their attitudes towards migration, work, and care. Furthermore, I would like to discuss the politicization of the debate on migration and reproduction in Bulgaria, as well as the (im-)mobilities and care among Bulgarian (ex-)migrant workers through the lens of feminist approaches.

Panel P035
Feminist perspectives on mobile essential workers: the pandemic as turning point? [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE) & Anthropology and Mobility (AnthroMob)]
  Session 1