Domestic Labour and Gender Exploitation: The Case of the Caregiver Program in Canada

Sunday, June 26, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
832 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Martin Centulle Gallie, UQAM, Montreal, QC, Canada
Proposal for SASE 2016 conference

Network C: Gender, Work and Family

Co-Organizers Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay and Bernard Fusulier, and assited by Pascal Barbier.


Domestic Work and Gender Exploitation: The Case of Caregiver Program in Canada

Martin Gallié (

Since the mid-1950s, the Canadian government organizes, through its border and immigration policies, a workforce importation assigned and confined to the work of "services women" in the private sector of domesticity.

This policy is not uniquely Canadian. It is part of a broader framework of reorganisation of the international labour division, which also affects the domestic work sector, sometimes referred to as "reproductive" or "care" (Federici, 2002, Parrenas, 2000, Oso Casas, 2002, 2008), translating into a "care drain" (Hochschild, 2004) from the "hyper-indebted countries of the Global South" towards, and to the benefit of, the "Global North" countries (Sassen, 2010).

The Canadian government's migratory policy thus participates directly in the "transnational extraction of care labour" (Glenn, 2009a). It also presents itself as a family policy, considering that it officially consists of a response to the alleged "crisis" affecting Canadian families in terms of care and domestic work. This crisis would be related to the growing investment of Canadian mothers in the job market, and to the concurrent neglect of the domestic sphere. As for its management method, meaning a resort to a foreign workforce both sexualized and racialized, it would be justified by the national shortage of a workforce willing to accept the work conditions operative in the sector of "home care for a child, an elderly person or a handicapped person, within a private residence" (Regulations, 2002).

In this communication I have two main objectives.

First I would like to present the results of a two years research on philippino domestic workers, in Montréal. Conducted in partnership with the Pinay militants who have been actively working for the defense of the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Quebec since 1991. Between June 2012 and February 2014, we administered to thirty-three (33) Filipino workers, during individual meetings, which at times consisted of semi-structured interviews. Through out this research, it is the practical implications of this caregiver program - in terms of living conditions, work relationships, exploitation, and combatting rights violations- as experienced by the workers which are sought to be documented, in order to generate tools for analysis, information and mobilization.

I a second part, I would like to argue that the caregiver program, and its requirement are part of a legal system which not only expresses, but also (re)organizes a "transitional form of exploitation" by way of a control on women bodies located between slavery, "sexage" and employment (Colette Guillaumin: 1978), and which contributes to the production of an unfree form of labour and the permanence of the sexual division of domestic work (Delphy, 2013).