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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social, Economic and political factors influencing the supply and demand of foreign domestic workers Devan, Mary Elizabeth


This thesis addresses the issue of foreign domestic workers. The government of Canada has been involved in the recruitment of people to perform domestic service for households since the turn of the century. The devaluation of domestic labour and increasing employment opportunities for Canadian women resulted in a constant shortage of labour to fill the demand. A variety of programs have been initiated to solve the "servant problem" culminating in the Foreign Domestic Movement in 1981. Within this policy foreign domestics are classified as a category of migrant labour and, as such, are formally denied citizenship rights. The majority of workers who come to Canada as foreign domestics under this program are Filipino women. These women often migrate to Canada as domestic workers due to limited options for employment in their home country. Their need to remain in Canada due to limited options in the Philippines, the lack of political rights in Canada, and the restrictions placed on workers who enter Canada under the Foreign Domestic Movement combine to situate these women in a position of dependence and vulnerability. In addition, live-in domestics perform devalued labour within an isolated work setting, and are often not included within provincial labour standards. These conditions keep wages depressed and lessen the ability to bargain for improved conditions of employment. The thesis problem is examined within an historic context. In addition to a literature review of the specific topic and related areas of gender and migrant labour, the data are from Statistics Canada, Employment and Immigration and the Special Collections Division of the University of British Columbia. The data shows : the labour market activity of Canadian women, the shift away from domestic service as other alternatives became open, the increasing number of dual income earning families, and the number of foreign domestics recruited to provide domestic service for Canadian households. Interviews with a variety of people draw out the particular factors leading to the reasons for the supply and demand of this group of workers. In addition, the interviews point to specific problems frequently experienced by women who work as live-in domestics.

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