Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 613–627 | Cite as

Responding to the Structural Violence of Migrant Domestic Work: Insights from Participatory Action Research with Migrant Caregivers in Canada

  • Rupaleem BhuyanEmail author
  • Lorraine Valmadrid
  • Esel Laxa Panlaqui
  • Novabella L. Pendon
  • Pearlita Juan
Original Article


This study explores international domestic workers’ response to employer abuse and exploitation following changes to Canada’s Live-in-Caregiver Program in 2014. This research followed an interpretive policy analysis research design, using feminist, participatory, and action research methods. University-based researchers, advocates, and peer researchers collaborated to develop and implement the project’s research and advocacy goals. Thirty-one caregivers in Toronto and Calgary participated in individual and/or focus group interviews to discuss access to permanent residence, working conditions and forms of support. Many shared examples of labor exploitation and psychological hardship due to precarious work conditions and long periods of family separation. Barriers to accessing services and fear of losing status led the majority of caregivers to rely primarily on informal networks for mutual aid and support. This paper identifies how changes in Canada’s temporary foreign worker program for live-in-caregivers exacerbates the structural violence of migrant care work, where the risk for abuse, exploitation, and risk of losing status is normalized. Migrant caregivers accept the precarious work conditions with the promise of permanent residence and the chance to improve their lives for themselves and their children. Towards envisioning improvements in social service delivery, our research highlighted the need for social services to increase outreach and safety planning for migrant workers who are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and the loss of legal immigration status. Our research also supports grassroots advocacy to call for all migrant workers to be granted permanent resident status upon arrival to ameliorate the structural violence of migrant labor.


Migrant Domestic workers Human trafficking Abuse Participatory action research Precarious immigration Violence against women 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Migrant Mothers Project, University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.The Neighbourhood OrganizationTorontoCanada

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