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Thursday, 27 November 2014

How do migrant domestic workers fare in Canada?

by Ethel Tungohan

Three things you need to know about Canada’s migrant domestic workers:

1.   Since the early 20th century, Canada has recruited domestic workers from abroad. European domestic workers automatically received Canadian citizenship. Domestic workers from other developing countries were only allowed into Canada on temporary work contracts.

2.  Improvements in migrant domestic workers’ lives occurred because of migrant domestic workers’ activism. Notably, migrant domestic workers’ activism in the late 1970s led them to qualify for the right to Canadian permanent residency.

3.  There is a wide range of migrant domestic worker organizations in Canada, each with different mandates and activities. These organizations give migrant domestic workers important social networks and form an important part of Canada’s migrant domestic workers’ movement.

Three myths about migrant domestic worker programs:

Myth # 1: Most migrant domestic workers come to Canada because their family members recruit them.

Reality: Relatives hired only 1 in 10 out of all migrant domestic workers. Employment agencies recruited the majority.

Myth # 2: Migrant domestic work is “easy.”

Reality: Migrant domestic workers frequently do not get paid for all of their working hours.  Because they can only apply for Canadian citizenship after they’ve completed their work contracts, the power their employers have over them is magnified.

Myth # 3: Transitioning to life in Canada after the program is seamless.

Reality: Migrant domestic workers report being discriminated in the Canadian job market because work places generally do not see domestic work as valid Canadian work experience. Most spend a lot of money on educational upgrading courses in order to qualify for jobs outside domestic work. Still, nearly all caregivers see their futures in Canada and are happy to be here.

Ethel Tungohan is a Grant Notley Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. 

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