MIGRANT WOMEN IN CANADA

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Summary
This research proposal is the result of my experience in this class and a memory that it sparked in me. I remember finding out that Filipina women are being trafficked into Canada and used as maids for upper class white women. This class has finally allowed me to find the proper words to communicate how despicable this made me feel. Isn’t that slavery? This is a common phenomenon today in Canada and it indicates that the stereotype is still alive: young, temporary migrant women are good objects for being maids and nannies’.
Taking a theoretical position of critical feminism, this paper explores the theme of abused young, female, temporary migrants in Canada. This is assumed to be only the tip of the iceberg because the instance of the Filipina maids cannot be an isolated phenomenon. This research set out to learn how much is known about this type of forced domestic work, and how to characterize and identify the experience in Canada of women who are being targeted for abuse because they are easy to manipulate—they are young, female, and temporary migrants. Therefore, they have three strikes against them and the intersectionality positions them at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Submitted: June 17, 2016

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Submitted: June 17, 2016

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Summary

This research proposal is the result of my experience in this class and a memory that it sparked in me. I remember finding out that Filipina women are being trafficked into Canada and used as maids for upper class white women. This class has finally allowed me to find the proper words to communicate how despicable this made me feel. Isn’t that slavery? This is a common phenomenon today in Canada and it indicates that the stereotype is still alive: young, temporary migrant women are good objects for being maids and nannies’.

Taking a theoretical position of critical feminism, this paper explores the theme of abused young, female, temporary migrants in Canada. This is assumed to be only the tip of the iceberg because the instance of the Filipina maids cannot be an isolated phenomenon. This research set out to learn how much is known about this type of forced domestic work, and how to characterize and identify the experience in Canada of women who are being targeted for abuse because they are easy to manipulate—they are young, female, and temporary migrants. Therefore, they have three strikes against them and the intersectionality positions them at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Introduction: Context and Relevance of the Topic

It is a well known, documented fact that Filipina women come to Canada as temporary migrants to be hired as maids or servants in upper class homes of the dominant culture. However, in our polite society this is not often mentioned. Indeed, it may be argued that the continuum of trafficking temporary migrants and funnelling them into forced domestic work is effectively a contemporary form of domestic slavery. This paper will argue that because domestic slavery takes place right under our noses, in the lap of luxury so to speak, it never occurs to us that the well-to-do maids and nannies of the upper class might really be domestic slaves.

Purpose and Objectives

The objective is to explore the nature of human trafficking as it relates to being a temporary migrant domestic worker. This is a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common in the advanced industrial nations. The fact that it is alive and well means it is part of the Canadian culture, whether we want to admit it or not. According to Strauss and McGrath (2016) the term trafficking actually obscures the fact that the real strategy behind domestic slavery is the “unfreedom” that is experienced. The domestic slave has no resources and lives under complete constraints, thus it effectively represents the possession and forced labour of another human being—slavery. This paper will indicate how the factors of precarious employment, precarious legal status and unfree labour relations are all part of the kaleidoscope of domestic slavery. The same way being young, female and a temporary migrant makes one vulnerable; it is also true that domestic slavery juggles the factor of precarious employment with the factor of not having official Visa status completes the scene of unfree labour.

Research Questions

  1. Does the intersectionality of being young, female, and a temporary migrant allow one to become more easily targeted for abuse in Canada?
  2. Is the resulting forced labour as a maid or nanny a form of domestic slavery?

Contributions to Knowledge, Policy Change or Equity

This research project will focus on a growing trend of devaluing workers that is taking place on a global level. This leaves young, temporary migrant women at a disadvantage for several reasons, which is termed intersectionality, in the paper. The methodology will be a review of the literature. For example, it will be argued that immigrant women tend to find themselves in positions of precarious employment. This means they are making money in workplaces that do not allow immigrant women to be safe. The idea of immigrant women being forced into jobs where they have no security, are abused, and forced into domestic slavery is relevant to issues of social injustice of gender, ethnicity, and young people.

By raising awareness of the plight of domestic slave workers in Canada we are taking the first step to unmasking the phenomenon. Making it public is the way to bring it to the level of mainstream awareness. At that point, the dominant culture will be forced to stop the practice. Unfortunately, legislating against this type of human trafficking is notoriously ineffective. It will take a real commitment on the part of the dominant culture men and women who hire these domestic slaves to stop doing it. People have a tendency to see what they see, and not to be able to see what they do not see. Change comes slowly, but it is time that Canada in the twenty-first century be a place where no human trafficking and domestic slavery is allowed to take place.

This abuse of young, female, temporary migrants in Canada is part of a larger continuum of such abuse, which likely spans the gamut from being forced into being a maid or a nanny, to human trafficking, and the professional sex trades (Strauss & McGrath, 2016). It is time to raise public awareness and stop the abuse of young, female, temporary migrants in Canada.

According to the OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET)(2016),

Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development and proper growth. Achieving women’s economic empowerment requires sound public policies, a holistic approach and long-term commitment and gender-specific perspectives must be integrated at the design stage of policy and programming (p.1).

That statement succinctly summarizes this topic.

 

 

Theoretical Framework

This research takes the form of critical feminism because that is precisely what is required to cut through and bring light to the abuse of women by male human traffickers. It is easy to say that men are completely responsible, but it must also be said that the housewives who allow and hire these domestic slaves are just as involved in the collusion of it all.

McCall (2005) says, “feminist researchers have been acutely aware of the limitations of gender as a single analytical category,” and “feminists are perhaps alone in the academy in the extent to which they have embraced intersectionality – the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relations and subject formations” (p. 1771). McCall believes intersectionality could be one of the single greatest theoretical contributions to critical feminism.

Intersectionality: A Case in Point. A voice shouted "black slut" when Beauty Solomon was attacked the 15th and 21st of July, 2005. She was attacked by agents of the National Police of Palma de Mallorca (“In an unprecedented decision,” 2012, para. 1).

The facts of this case date from July 2005, when Beauty Solomon, a woman of Nigerian descent, resident in Spain, was assaulted by national police officers in Palma de Mallorca. While purporting to carry out an identity check, the officers struck her with a baton and shouted discriminatory insults (“In an unprecedented decision,” 2012, para. 1).

Beauty Solomon, resident of Spain, was a young, female, black prostitute. This is intersectionality: a Nigerian woman who faced racism and beatings by police for two years finally decided to speak out. She won her case claiming violence and discrimination on multiple counts (“Beauty Solomon vs. Spain, discrimination based on race, gender and social status,” 2011).

 

Review of Literature

Das Gupta (2015) discusses transnational family development in two guises. First, there is the idea of men brought into forced labour. For example, after the Chinese Exclusion Act, many Chinese and Indian men were stranded here to work, destined to be apart from their families in India who they could only see on visits once in a while.

A more current instance of transnational family development in Canada has been discussed in relation to temporary migrants brought into the country to perform specified labours, such as live-in caregiving, involving predominantly Caribbean women earlier and Filipino women more recently. These women of precarious means are forced to leave their own children, husbands, and parents behind in order to travel to Canada as temporary migrant caregivers in middle-class families (Das Gupta, 2015, p. 18).

Das Gupta chronicles how transnationalism among families in which the father or mother may be working full-time in a western country, while the family of origin is back home. This implies that we have become accustomed to having a maid, and it is accepted as the norm in many countries. However, this casual acceptance of transnational families of workers also lays the groundwork for abuse.

Rather than colonizing a country, it is like a reverse colonization taking place when transnationalism gives rise to having a Filipina maid as the norm in Canada. Now, we simply import the workers, the resources, the privileges, and when the young, female, temporary migrant arrives to be a maid for a middle-class Canadian family, then she will effectively become like a domestic slave to them. It is uncertain how many of them will ever be reunited with their families (Das Gupta, 2000). In fact, Das Gupta (2005/2006) has even coined the term “twice migrated” to account for people who may have migrated “from a South Asian country to a Gulf country and their second migration is from the Gulf to Canada” (Das Gupta, 2015, p. 20).

It is important to note that the themes of domestic slavery are nothing new. There is ample literature on the subject, which is unpopular in contemporary conversation. According to García (2015), writing in “Child slavery, sex trafficking or domestic work? The League of Nations and its analysis of the Mui Tsai system,” the Chinese Mui Tsai system was only abolished at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was considered barbaric and inhumane, not far removed from foot-binding. In the Mui Tsai system, poor girls would be brought in to work in the homes of wealthier families to work as domestic slaves. This battle was waged by the League of Nations almost a century ago, but it represents one of the modern pushes to do away with human trafficking and exploitation of young women.

The themes of precarious employment, high risks, insecurity are all present in Vosko’s (2006) macro analysis that focuses on labour laws, policy, and the state of working conditions in Canada. In Precarious Employment: Understanding Labour Market Insecurity in Canada, Vosko (2006), says “precarious employment is a defining feature of the Canadian labour market, yet it is poorly understood, and the consequences are far-reaching” (p. 3). Vosko (2006) then offers a comprehensive way of qualifying what is meant by precarious employment:

Precarious employment encompasses forms of work involving limited social benefits and statutory entitlements, job security, low wages, and high risks of ill-health. It is shaped by employment status (i.e., self-employment or wage work), form of employment (i.e., temporary or permanent, part-time or full-time), and dimensions of labour market insecurity as well as social context (such as occupation, industry, and geography), and social location (the interaction between social relations, such as gender, and “race,” and political and economic conditions) (pp. 3-4).

Vosko (2006) wastes no time depicting the plight of, young, female, temporary migrant women to show how modern Canadian society creates precarious employment for these women.

Cranford, Vosko and Zukewich (2003)review the literature on precarious employment and propose that the effects of globalization virtually mandate and allow this creation of a precarious workforce of immigrant women. They point out that the people who create and hire immigrant women for these jobs must be completely aware of the fact that these jobs consign reserves of female immigrant workers to a workplace experience marked by chronic stress and framed by the realities of psychological instability, social insecurity, and economically insufficient income.

There is a trend in globalisation of devaluing the worker (Kalleberg, 2009). Precarious work is insecure work, work in which one’s human rights are not upheld as a matter of course. In the last two decades there has been an overall lowering of workplace environments, which has resulted in more and more jobs that are part-time, temporary employment, and self-employment(Kalleberg, 2009). Indeed, there is a trend toward making all employment more precarious. This means there is a global trend toward increasing levels of social insecurity, more erosion of labour rights, and a steady drop in levels of pay. It may be argued that young, temporary migrant women suffer the most from this trend.

One good way to understand this as a feminist critique of society is to note that it is precisely the social injustices perpetrate against the weakest members of society—arguably young, temporary migrant women—by understanding is that social structure is made of social statuses arranged from lowest to highest. The status for young, the status for female, and the status for temporary migrant are all very low statuses that confer no power. Thus, holding all three of these statuses at the same time is the ultimate vulnerable social status.

McCall (2005) states that “feminist researchers have been acutely aware of the limitations of gender as a single analytical category,” and then states “feminists are perhaps alone in the academy in the extent to which they have embraced intersectionality – the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relations and subject formations” (p. 1771). The author (2005) claims the concept of intersectionality is one of the most important ideas in feminist research even though “there has been little discussion of how to study intersectionality, that is, of its methodology” (p. 1771). The point is that young immigrant women are subject to more biases from intersectionality than any other group.

Going Global

According to Statistics Canada,

Canadian society has changed in many ways over the past century. Gender roles and relations are among the areas that have undergone the most profound transformations. Today, legal and social equality between the sexes are explicit and virtually unquestioned societal goals (Thomas, 2016, para. 1).

Yet, as hopeful as this sounds, it ignores the reality of transnational family work and the way it is fast becoming a case of international domestic slavery in the advanced industrial nations.

Domestic slavery is becoming hard to ignore. The Southern Poverty Law Center writes this report, updated in February 2013, details the systematic exploitation of foreign workers who come to this country for temporary jobs under the nation's H-2 guestworker program. Based on dozens of legal cases and interviews with thousands of guestworkers, it documents how guestworkers are routinely cheated out of wages, forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs, and held virtually captive by employers. (Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States, 2016, para. 1).

In “Hyper-precarious lives: Migrants, work and forced labour in the Global North” domestic slavery is shown to be common around the world, especially in other northern, advanced industrial nations (Lewis, Dwyer, Hodkinson & Waite, 2015). These victimized and abused young women may be termed as living hyper-precarious lives and they may be characterized by occupying a “continuum of unfreedom” (Lewis, Dwyer, Hodkinson & Waite, 2015, p. 580).

Precarious labour may also be identified as being particularly relevant to the social injustices associated with gender and ethnicity. Immigrant women and ethnic minorities make up significant populations that have systematically been set up to be abused by their employers as women immigrants are often forced into precarious employment. The authors introduce the concept of hyper-precarious work to describe aspects of immigrant labour that are insecure. This is a very thorough review of the literature that contains much information for this research.

In Europe, domestic labour demand, whether as a housewife, maid, or nanny, is strong and growing, and local labour alone cannot satisfy the need. Estimates are that between 5-9% of all workers in Europe are domestic workers, and there are 120,000 to 240,000 domestic workers in New York alone (Homer, 2013, para. 2). There are three main reasons for this development:

  1. The increasing participation of women in the workforce, which translates into increasing demand for paid care services at home.
  2. The aging of our societies: almost 50% of the population of advanced industrial nations will be dependent on some form of long-term care before the end of their lives.
  3. The privatization and liberalization of social services and the very limited role of the state: 23% of domestic workers in New York earn less than minimum wage (Homer, 2013, para. 3).

Of course, the evolution of social norms also plays a role in these segments of society in the development of norms for domestic service. Household from the middle class to diplomats can now be offered the services of a home helper. Therefore, many families are turning to transnational foreign family members to care for their children and their elderly relatives, and to perform house work. Thus, families become employers. While some domestic workers have a good relationship with their employer, too many are in a situation where they are deprived of their basic rights of work and being human, including the right to privacy and family life, collective bargaining, decent wages and decent social protection. Most migrant workers providing domestic services are women.

Most of them come to Europe to escape the difficult economic situation in their

country. Ironically, while it is considered a serious and important proposal for European women to remain on the market and work after maternity leave, women and men migrants are often unable to be with their own children. They often and typically leave their children and families behind in their country of origin with other parents. They send them money on a regular basis.

For these reasons and especially when the migrants do not have their own housing or

work permits, or when they do not speak the language, many of them are willing to accept unprotected employment as a solution that seems to meet their needs. In this situation, they prefer to abandon the contractual social protection against a net higher salary. The long hours and difficult tasks for which workers are not trained can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression.

 

Method(s) of Data Collection (include a rationale for your choices)

This will be archival research focusing on (a) the scholarly literature, and (b) secondary sources from the popular media that have documented such activities.

Ethical Concerns if Relevant

There are no ethical concerns or human subjects issues involved in doing archival research. The ethical concern is with human slavery blithely taking place right under our noses in Canada.

Plans for Data Management and Analysis

This will be somewhat comparative, as I will attempt to at least mention the incidence of domestic slavery in other countries to bring the proper context to the problem. As such, there should be some charts describing the factors typically involved in domestic slavery, and how common these are in other countries.

Communication Plans for My Audience

In the approach of grounded theory by Glaser and Strauss (1967), one is supposed to gather qualitative data, and then begin analyzing it to get to know the subject from the ground up, so to speak. Then, one can truly develop a theory based upon research. The approach to this paper is critical feminism, but there is a term from Glaser and Strauss (1967)that I will subscribe to in this paper. The idea in grounded theory is to gather the data from the subjects of study, and then to allow the data to speak for itself. Along these lines, I believe that a systematic presentation of the subject of domestic slavery being alive and well in Canada will raise some awareness among my audience members.

Conclusion

The purpose of this paper was to present a topic of research inquiring into the nature of the challenges faced by immigrant women in the workplace. The special context of the research was on raising awareness about domestic slavery in Canada to impact culture, public policy, and social norms that have been perpetuating inequities for immigrant women in the Canadian workplace. The claim of the research is that immigrant women are at a structural disadvantage in the workplace. This was an exploratory research project examining the twenty-first century challenges to young, female, temporary migrant women working in Canada as domestic slaves.

The purpose of this research was to frame that even though Canada purports to be liberal and progressive when it comes to immigrants, there are numerous challenges and social inequities facing young, temporary migrant women in the Canadian workplace. Furthermore, the factor of immigrant women being forced into insecure workplaces where they are easily abused also serves to emphasize the idea of intersectionality. This is the concept of more than one category of social injustice being at play. It was argued that these circumstances, far from being resolved, are common in the advanced industrial nations and they are actually being reinforced by globalization.

 

 

 

References

“Beauty Solomon vs. Spain, discrimination based on race, gender and social status.” (2011). Women’s Worldwide Link.Retrieved from http://www2.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/new.php?modo=detalle_proyectos&dc=26&lang=en

“Close to slavery: Guestworker programs in the United States.” (2016). Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/20130218/close-slavery-guestworker-programs-united-states

Cohen, R. (2000). "Mom is a stranger": the negative impact of immigration politics on the family life of Filipina domestic workers. Canadian Ethnic Studies32(3), 76. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/openview/8c499c7a363da71940ba75407a143437/1?pq-origsite=gscholar

Cranford, C.J., Vosko, L.F., & Zukewich, N. (2003). The gender of precarious employment in Canada.  Industrial Relations, 58(3), 454-482. doi: 10.7202/007495ar

Das Gupta, T. (2000). Families of native peoples, immigrants and people of colour. In N. Mandell & A. Duffy (Eds.), Canadian Families: Diversity, Conflict and Change(pp. 146-87). Toronto, ON: Harcourt Brace.

Das Gupta, T. (2005/2006). Twice migrated: Political economy of South Asian immigrants from the Middle East to Canada. International Journal of the Humanities, 3(9), 263-74.

Das Gupta, T. (2015). Gulf husbands and Canadian wives: Transnationalism from below among South Asians – a classed, gendered, and racialized phenomenon. In G., & Cohen, R. (Eds.),Engendering Transnational Voices: Studies in Family, Work, and Identity. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press.

García, M.R. (2015). Child slavery, sex trafficking or domestic work? The League of Nations and its analysis of the Mui Tsai system. In Towards a Global History of Domestic and Caregiving Workers (pp. 428-450). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.doi: 10.1163/9789004280144_021

Homer, R. (2013). An explainer: What’s happening with domestic workers’ rights? OnLabor. Retrieved from https://onlabor.org/2013/11/06/an-explainer-whats-happening-with-domestic-workers-rights/

“In an unprecedented decision, the European Court of Human Rights condemns Spain for failing to investigate racist and sexist acts of violence by police officers.” (2012). Women’s Worldwide Link. Retrieved from http://www2.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/new.php?modo=detalle_prensa&dc=372&lang=en

Kalleberg, A. L. (2009). Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition. American Sociological Review74(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1177/000312240907400101

Lewis, H., Dwyer, P., Hodkinson, S., & Waite, L. (2015). Hyper-precarious lives: Migrants, work and forced labour in the Global North. Progress in Human Geography39(5), 580-600. doi:10.1177/0309132514548303

McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs30(3), 1771-1800. Retrieved from http://www.gallbladder-research.org/media/media_200317_en.pdf

Strauss, K., & McGrath, S. (2016). Temporary migration, precarious employment and unfree labour relations: Exploring the ‘continuum of exploitation’ in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Geoforum. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.01.008

The OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET). (2016). Women’s economic empowerment. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/dac/povertyreduction/50157530.pdf

Thomas,D. (2016). The census and the evolution of gender roles in early 20th century Canada. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2010001/article/11125-eng.htm

Vosko, L. F. (2006). Precarious employment: Understanding labour market insecurity in Canada. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen's Press.


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