Chinese Nurses in German Nursing Homes: A Bourdieusian Perspective on Migration Motivation

  • Julia Trautner (Autor/in)


International nurse migration is a well discussed topic in the Asian context. While the Philippines, for example, is often the focus of the discourse, there is also already a profound base of literature on Chinese nurse migration. Much has been written about Chinese nurses in Australia or Singapore, but little is known about them working in Europe. Why is it that Chinese nurses can be found working in German nursing homes? What motivates them to live so far away from their home country and work in a nursing home setting? This article criticizes the fact that motivations for nurse migration have mostly been studied from an economic push-and-pull perspective with weak explanatory power when it comes to individual motivations. Thus this qualitative study conducted among nine Chinese nurses working in German nursing homes breaks new ground by employing a Bourdieusian sociological approach to researching motivations for migration. It finds that instead of economic considerations, aspects of cultural capital like mobility, working and living conditions, or education are central to the decision to migrate among those nurses. This article shows that all nine nurses leveraged their “nursing capital” to free themselves from the influence of others and so change their life trajectories.


nurse migration, China, Bourdieu, motivations, cultural capital