Assessing the Changes to Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program: Improving Security or Deepening Precariousness?

Using surveys and focus group discussions with Filipina women who arrived as caregivers through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and subsequently attained permanent resident status in Canada, we gathered quantitative and qualitative data about the experiences of former caregivers after they transitioned from temporary foreign worker to permanent resident and eventually Canadian citizen. The aim of the study was to understand the experiences, issues and barriers faced by former caregivers, and investigate how recent changes in the Live-In Caregiver Program may affect caregivers. We found a number of noteworthy results from our survey data:

  1. Caregivers were highly educated with a wide variety of educational backgrounds.
  2. About half of the caregivers took courses in Canada. The most common program of study was Personal Support Worker (PSW). Most of those who began educational programs completed them.
  3. Most caregivers transitioned out of caregiving work over time, but 90% remain within a few select, low skill occupational categories even after 10 years or more in Canada.

From our focus group data, a number of pertinent themes arose:

  1. There was a significant power imbalance between caregivers and employers and many caregivers reported experiencing abuse and exploitation.
  2. Many experienced difficulties with labour market integration after completing the LCP due to perceived stigma of caregiving work and discrimination.
  3. A sense of obligation and emotional ties to those they looked after often held caregivers back from changing jobs or seeking further educational courses.
  4. Other challenges with taking educational upgrading courses included financial and time constraints.
  5. Caregivers felt immense pressure as their families’ sole breadwinners, both before and after the family arrived in Canada, which limited their ability to invest in their own career aspirations.

From our data, we identify a number of key recommendations that are relevant in the context of the legislative changes in the caregiver program:

  1. Give caregivers open work permits that are not tied to their employers.
  2. Eliminate the quotas limiting the numbers of caregivers who can be granted permanent residency.
  3. Give all caregivers landed status upon arrival.