Mary Jean Hande, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Mount Saint Vincent University

Migrant Care Work and the Geopolitics of ‘Aging in Place’ in Canada

close up of two people holding both hands

Over the past 10 years, many global policy responses to aging have heeded the call of the World Health Organizations (WHO) to build “age friendly cities” that enable older people to “age in place… in their own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or level of intrinsic capacity” (WHO 2015, 36). Among aging in place (AiP) initiatives, “person- centred” home care, have become the overwhelming preference of most disabled and older people. Currently, in Manitoba, home care systems are being rapidly restructured to reduce hospital stays and to make residential care and home care more cost‐efficient and streamlined. Yet, shrinking welfare provision, limited affordable housing options, and higher rates of women (who perform most caregiving duties) in the workforce, often make it difficult for Canada’s rapidly aging population to access the supports they need to “age in place.” Nova Scotia is currently developing a number of policy changes and strategies to attract migrant workers to help care for their aging population. In Manitoba, however, research shows that much of the formal care support for older people in Manitoba is provided by racialized migrant workers (mostly women), who are often “hypermobile,” or have precarious or temporary immigration status. These workers are vulnerable to weak employment relations, characterized by harassment, low pay, no benefits or formal contracts, and frequent employment standards violations. That these workers are expected to be “hypermobile” suggests that facilitating the stability, community-embeddedness, and health of Canada’s aging population, depends on the instability, precarity and transnational mobility of racialized migrant workers. Migrant care workers seem exempt from the promise of AiP, emphasizing the ways in which policy and practice are stratified along the lines of class, race and immigration status.

This project examines both Manitoba and Nova Scotia as case studies of home care restructuring and new AiP initiatives. We aim to theorize these contradictions and inform aging and care work policies by shining light on hidden economies of migrant care labour that support Canada’s aging population. This research is guided by two central questions: (1) How are racialized and migrant care workers included and excluded from global imperatives to “age in place” through immigration, health and residential policy planning in Manitoba and Nova Scotia? (2) What kinds of policy and practices might enable migrant care workers to also “age in place?”