Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Orchard, Treena


The primary aim of this critical ethnographic study was to examine how Filipina women in the Canadian live-in caregiver program (LCP) negotiate their own physical and mental well-being while managing the complex health needs of their clients. Using global care chain and postcolonial theoretical frameworks, I also sought to identify how multi-scalar forces including caregiving and migrant policies in Canada and South East Asia exacerbate pre-existing gendered and labour inequities faced by these women. The distressing impact of this precarious form of employment on family dynamics and relationships among family members in the Philippines was also explored. Data collection took place in Canada and the Philippines, including interviews with 16 women who were in the LCP, 10 key informants in the Greater Toronto Area, and 15 key informants in Metro Manila. Findings highlight the complex transnational network of players and conditions involved in the international care economy, including migrant labour brokers, who significantly shape the experiences of migrant care workers upon arrival in host countries. Extended separation from family was often prolonged due to restrictive migrant care worker policies in Canada and around the world. Prolonged separation had significant effects on women’s mental health, including persistent feelings of sadness, burnout, and fatigue, characteristic of depression. Women had mixed feelings about their constrained relationships with their families, yet their perceived responsibilities to their families strongly dictated their decision-making with respect to their work, health, and managing their own daily living needs. These findings contribute critical data with which to develop gender and culturally-appropriate care, programs, and protections to advance the health and safety of these women, who perform essential care work in our country.

Summary for Lay Audience

Canada has facilitated the immigration of migrant care workers to assist in the provision of care for children, the elderly, and those with disabilities since the 1950s. In 2014, significant changes were introduced to the live-in caregiver program, and of the many dramatic changes to the policy the reduced opportunities for permanent residency is particularly significant. The gendered and cultural make-up of the applicants in the program is striking, as women from the Philippines constitute 90% of admissions. My research explored the health experiences of Filipina women in the Canadian Live-In Caregiver Program, specifically how they maintain relationships with their families at home and manage their own health and well-being while working in Canada. In this ethnographic study, I took a transnational data collection approach with interviews conducted with migrant care workers and key informants in Canada as well as interviews with key informants in the Philippines to contextualize the social and economic conditions of both sending and receiving countries of migrant care labour. Using global care chain theory and postcolonial theory, my research contributes critical insights on the trajectory of these women’s migration experiences, including their contrasting pathways to Canada, the influence of their familial responsibilities, the effects of prolonged separation on their mental health, and their exclusion from health and social services in Canada. Given the essential and deeply meaningful work migrant care workers perform, findings will contribute to refining health policy that serves their health needs as they continue to work and live in Canada.