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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. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

What are the politics of flat pensions in Canada and the UK?

by Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan

This recent, 2014 Canadian Public Administration article explores the issue of policy change in relationship to universal flat-rate pensions created in both the UK (Basic State Pension) and Canada (Old Age Security) in the post-World War II years.

Three things to know about the development of old age security:

1.  In the field of universal public pensions, there has been more policy change in the UK than in Canada.

2.   This contrast between the development of the Basic State Pension (UK) and Old Age Security (Canada), is partially explained by the extent of social mobilization involving current and future beneficiaries.

3.   Our study suggests that adopting a long-term time frame is necessary to assess the issue of transformative yet incremental change.

Three myths about pension reform:

Myth #1: Contributory pensions such as the Basic State Pension in the UK are always more resilient politically than benefits funded out of general revenues like Old Age Security in Canada.

Reality: Our study suggests this is not necessarily the case, as Old Age security has proved more resilient than the Basic State Pension, despite the fact that the latter is contributory and the former is not.

Myth #2: Universal transfer programs like Old Age Security are facing a rapid and irremediable decline.  

Reality: Despite the adoption of a fiscal clawback in 1989, Old Age Security has proved remarkably resilient as a program and, during the Chrétien years, the only major attempt to replace it was later abandoned.

Myth #3: Contributory pension benefits are almost impossible to curtail in a direct and explicit way.

Reality: The case of pension reform in the UK during the Thatcher years suggests this is not true and that, under certain political conditions, major retrenchment is possible. 

Interested in learning more about your own public sector pension, and how it fits into your retirement planning?  Consider attending "Retirement Planning in the Public Service: Learning to Adapt to the Tides of Change", Wednesday, November 26, in Edmonton.  Click here for more information.

Daniel Béland is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Public Policy (Tier 1) at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (University of Saskatchewan campus). He has published a dozen books and more than 90 peer-reviewed articles on fiscal and social policy, in Canada and elsewhere around the world. For more information:

Alex Waddan is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. He has published many academic papers as well as The Politics of Social Welfare (Edward Elgar), Clinton's Legacy? (Palgrave) and The Politics of Policy Change (Georgetown University Press; with Daniel Béland). For more information: