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Journal article

Responding to the Structural Violence of Migrant Domestic Work: Insights from Participatory Action Research with Migrant Caregivers in Canada

Date

2019

Authors

Rupaleem Bhuyan, Lorraine Valmadrid, Esel Laxa Panlaqui, Novabella L. Pendon, and Pearlita Juan

Abstract

Abstract
This study explores international domestic workers’ response to employer abuse and exploitation following changes to Canada’s
Live-in-Caregiver Program in 2014. This research followed an interpretive policy analysis research design, using feminist,
participatory, and action research methods. University-based researchers, advocates, and peer researchers collaborated to develop
and implement the project’s research and advocacy goals. Thirty-one caregivers in Toronto and Calgary participated in individual
and/or focus group interviews to discuss access to permanent residence, working conditions and forms of support. Many shared
examples of labor exploitation and psychological hardship due to precarious work conditions and long periods of family
separation. Barriers to accessing services and fear of losing status led the majority of caregivers to rely primarily on informal
networks for mutual aid and support. This paper identifies how changes in Canada’s temporary foreign worker program for livein-caregivers exacerbates the structural violence of migrant care work, where the risk for abuse, exploitation, and risk of losing
status is normalized. Migrant caregivers accept the precarious work conditions with the promise of permanent residence and the
chance to improve their lives for themselves and their children. Towards envisioning improvements in social service delivery, our
research highlighted the need for social services to increase outreach and safety planning for migrant workers who are vulnerable
to abuse, exploitation, and the loss of legal immigration status. Our research also supports grassroots advocacy to call for all
migrant workers to be granted permanent resident status upon arrival to ameliorate the structural violence of migrant labor.
Keywords Migrant . Domestic workers . Human trafficking . Abuse . Participatory action research . Precarious immigration

Journal title

Journal of Family Violence

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Economic sectors

Home support workers, housekeepers and related occupations

Geographical focuses

Ontario, Alberta, and National relevance

Languages

English