Friday, January 14, 2011


See column below from the Toronto Star. While it makes some good points, it reveals a misunderstanding of why the Live-in Caregiver category is growing rapidly. Here are a few reasons, in addition to those outlined in the column:
1. The vast majority of caregivers come from the Philippines. This is not a coincidence: that country has a specialized government ministry dedicated to EXPORT workers. Why? Filipinos abroad are one of the major sources of foreign currency remittances, they support the economy and send money to their relatives by the billions.
2. Filipinos are trapped in low paying jobs and a low standard of living in their country, so they are drawn specifically to courses that allow them to leave as caregivers, encouraged by their own government and by countries that need their services, such as Canada, but also places like Hong Kong, Dubai, etc.
3. The Live-in Caregiver Program admission bar is somewhat low compared to other countries like the United States. Our requirements for issuing them work permits are not as onerous as in other countries.
4. The program is not a true temporary worker one: after two years of full time work, applicants are allowed to apply for permanent residency, and to include their spouses and children in their application. This is a huge draw for applicants, as the reward is significant. Other countries do not allow them to become residents and they must remain temporary workers for a finite period of time.It must be noted that the majority of applicants would not qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker program or for other immigration streams as self-selected immigrants, as their skill level is usually insufficient for those programs. There are hundreds of "schools" in the Philippines that specifically aim to teach care giving courses for people whose only aim is emigration. As usual, some are good, some are bad,  and a reasonable degree of skepticism is necessary.
5. Few caregivers remain in that line of work after they obtain residency, so the need to replace them is high. With the exception of those who have a solid nursing degree and manage to re-qualify for admission to a provincial nursing college, most move on to other types of occupations.
6. Some caregivers do not fit in with their employers or do not have sufficient skills, so they are terminated and otters take their place. This requires issuing more work permits to bring new caregivers.
7. There is a significant lobby of caregiver advocacy organizations seeking to increase numbers, particularly for the Philippines, and to ease standards of admission. the program has been relaxed over the years, partly due to need, and partly due to pressure from interested parties.
8. Caregivers in Canada usually encourage their friends to apply for similar positions in the same neighbourhood, so they can be close. They then form tightly knit groups and seek each otter's advice. This can be a devastating error, as caregivers often receive poor legal advice from well intentioned but ill informed friends. They also resort to seeking advice from "Consultants"  who often counsel them to misrepresent a variety of matters such as marital status, children, etc., and seldom consult lawyers, so they often get erroneous counsel and damage their situation unnecessarily.
9. The "agencies" that act as intermediaries and charge a fee to employers to find caregivers also play a significant role in the increase in numbers. They have a vested interest in placing them.
10. Caregivers view the program as a "road to Canada" for their families, hence its popularity.As our population ages, the need increases, but there has been no corresponding increase in monitoring or scrutiny of qualifications.

There is no question, however, that the need for skilled caregivers is acute, the question is why mostly one country benefits from the program, while there are caregivers in other countries who Will also be suitable for the positions. Would by any chance politics play a role ? :-)

Goar: Who is looking after your parents? -

Goar: Who is looking after your parents?
January 13, 2011

Carol Goar

The change crept up on us. We haven’t thought about it, talked about it or done anything about it.

Over the past decade, the number of live-in foreign caregivers entering Canada has increased by 400 per cent. No other category of immigration has grown as fast.

It is not because more young parents are seeking nannies; it is that more middle-aged couples are looking for caregivers for their aging parents.

Canadian-born workers don’t want these jobs. The pay is low, the shifts can be brutal and caring for older people, especially those with disabilities or dementia, is physically and emotionally draining.

So Canada, like other western nations, is turning to migrant caregivers.

Inside the sector, this is an acknowledged reality. The managers of nursing homes, retirement homes, home care agencies and private nursing companies see Asia (primarily the Philippines) or the Caribbean as their main source of workers.

But outside the sector — except for the occasional news story about abuse of live-in caregivers — we haven’t paid much attention to the changing face of elder care.

The International Organization for Migration has. The Geneva-based agency, which represents 132 nations including Canada, has just released a report entitled The Role of Migrant Care Workers in Aging Societies. It looks at four western democracies — Canada, the United States, Britain and Ireland — to see how they are dealing with the challenge of caring for an aging population.

The study was written by a team of researchers at Oxford University, the University of Ottawa, Georgetown University and the National University of Ireland. Its principal conclusion: Importing foreign caregivers is a stopgap, not a solution. What is needed is an overhaul of the adult care system.“The increasing reliance on recent migrants can be seen as a symptom of the structural and funding challenges our social care systems are experiencing.”

The authors compared the four countries, using their differences to weigh various policy options. But they found the similarities among them much more striking than the divergences.

All four were unprepared for the demographic wave bearing down on them. All said they were too “constrained” to invest in new social programs. None was making a serious attempt to tackle the problems that have already emerged, from discrimination against non-white caregivers to a lack of standards and oversight in the sector.

Canada was the only country with a specific immigration program for live-in caregivers. (It was developed in the 1990s to address the shortage of child care.) Although the authors applauded the idea of a dedicated entry stream, they stopped short of endorsing the Canadian model, warning that it leaves live-in caregivers vulnerable to abuse and denies them full protection of the Charter of Rights.

The U.S. was the most dependent on “unauthorized” immigrants. Twenty per cent of its domestic workforce is in the country illegally. This makes it virtually impossible to monitor or maintain the quality of elder care, the author pointed out.

Britain and Ireland used recruiting agencies more extensively than their North American counterparts. Although this increases the inflow of migrant caregivers, it drives up the cost and raises unrealistic expectations, the authors warned. Before going down this path, countries need to ensure employers can deliver on the commitments being made on their behalf.

In short, no one is very good at importing caregivers.

But that is not the fundamental problem, the researchers stress. What is wrong is that western governments are seeking quick fixes for a long-term problem. Rich countries are looking abroad, not within, for the compassion and work ethic that will allow their citizens to age in dignity.

Carol Goar's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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