Doctor of Philosophy
Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies
This dissertation examines how migrant caregivers ascribe meaning to the (re)productive labour that they provide within Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). Introduced in 1992, the LCP was a temporary foreign worker program that recruited women, primarily from the Philippines, to care for children, elderly people, and people with disabilities in the homes of their employers. Numerous studies have shown how the stipulations of the LCP produce precarious working conditions that render caregivers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and that result in their deskilling and de-professionalization. The conditions engendered by the LCP reflect and reinforce the devalued status of care and domestic work; however, little attention has been paid to how people employed in the program make meaning about this work. Informed by feminist standpoint theory, this study centers the voices of live-in caregivers to examine the discursive strategies they utilize to make sense of, (re)frame, negotiate and/or challenge the problematic tropes attributed to care and domestic work. The findings of this study contribute to a growing body of scholarship that examines the experiences of those employed in “dirty” occupations that have the potential to “taint” or stigmatize workers. Utilizing narrative inquiry, a total of three focus group interviews were conducted with eleven women employed in the LCP in the last fifteen years. The interviews took place between December 2016 and January 2017 at a community organization in Toronto that provides services to migrant caregivers. Drawing on excerpts from these interviews, I explore four major themes that emerged from the research. The first theme focuses on participants’ common experiences of stigma and exploitation that stem in part from the devalued status of reproductive labour. The second theme highlights one of the central ways that participants brought dignity and meaning to their job by refocusing attention on the relational dimensions of care. The third theme centers on participants experiences of transnational motherhood, including the painful experience of family separation. Lastly, the fourth theme explores discourses of sacrifice and spiritual faith, which were central to how participants made sense of their experiences of family separation, exploitation, and stigma. For several of the women in this study, their identities as workers were inextricably tied to their maternal identities, and sacrifice, as well as spiritual faith, informed how they assigned meaning to care and domestic work.
Summary for Lay Audience
Care and domestic work, which includes caring for people, cooking and cleaning, is undervalued. Some aspects of this work, especially those tasks that involve close contact with dirt, the body, and its fluids, are often low paid. Given the way care and domestic work are devalued, this study explored how people employed in Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) make meaning about this work. The LCP was a temporary migration policy that allowed people, mostly women from the Philippines, to come to Canada on a temporary basis to provide care for children, older people and people with disabilities while living in the homes of their employers. A total of three focus group interviews were conducted with eleven women who were employed in the LCP in the last fifteen years. The focus groups took place between December 2016 and January 2017 at a community organization in Toronto that provides services to migrant caregivers. This thesis examines four major findings that came out of these interviews. The first finding focuses on participants’ experiences with their employers who often did not respect their basic rights as workers. I argue that these experiences are tied to the way that care and domestic work are generally devalued in society. The second finding highlights one of the ways that participants brought a sense of meaning to their job by drawing attention to the relationships they developed with the people they cared for and the important role they played in their lives. The third finding focuses on participants painful experiences of parenting while being physically separated from their children, who remained in the Philippines. Lastly, the fourth finding focuses on sacrifice and spiritual faith which helped participants to make sense of their experiences of caregiving and family separation. For many of the women in this study, their relationships with their children and their religious faith shaped how they made meaning about their experiences as live-in caregivers.
Gaudet, Crystal, "Making meaning about reproductive work: A narrative inquiry into the experiences of migrant caregivers in Canada" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8247.
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