Ruptured lives and reconfigured identities: the impact of foreign domestic work on the lives of migrant women in Canada
Denise Spitzer (University of Ottawa)
Paper short abstract:
Thousands of university-educated women from the Philippines enter Canada under the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). Participation in the LCP produces a significant rupture in women’s identities and lives as they negotiate boundaries of exclusion and inclusion that continue to loom large in their settlement and integration trajectories in Canada.
Paper long abstract:
Thousands of migrants, predominantly university-educated women from the Philippines, have entered Canada under the auspices of the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). LCP workers are required to work and live with their employers caring for children, the elderly or the infirm. After completing 24 months' of work, migrants may apply for permanent residency status. Drawing from a series of research projects, I found that participation in the LCP produces a significant rupture in women's identities and lives. Coming to Canada with the hopes of creating a better life for their families back home and for offering opportunities for those destined to join them, informants continue to recount their experiences in the LCP in the manner of a trauma narrative which anchors their post-LCP identity formation and social relations. While working under the LCP, women's lives are informed by their physical and social isolation, precarious immigration status, lack of control over work and home environment, loss of intimate familial roles, vulnerability to abuse and exploitation and loss of occupational status. After the LCP, they confront occupational, economic and social marginalization resulting in dreams deferred or denied. Often alienated from family and ethnic community members who have not undergone the program and have little understanding of the ordeal, women's participation in local LCP worker organizations enhances social support, facilitates access to support services and benefits health and well-being. Importantly, the presence of the LCP continues to loom large in their lives and continues to reconfigure personal and social identity.
Being human, being migrant: dealing with memory, dreams and hopes in everyday life