Ida* has been a caregiver for 26 year. She has had four clients, looking after each one until their passing. A key part of care work involves providing companionship. The emotional aspect of care work forges an intimate bond between care workers and recipients, which can be both rewarding and stressful.
Partly, Ida says, this comes from working in a person’s home. In this environment, she often comes to be treated as a member of the recipient’s family: “You learn to love and be compassionate towards them. You treat them as if they’re your own grandparents, especially when they’re good to you. That’s when I enjoy the job most,” says Ida.
Being treated as a member of the family also has its complications. The emotional and intimate nature of Ida’s work—usually reserved only for familial relationships—can get in the way of her rights as a worker. Sometimes, employers expect her to do tasks outside of her duties, such as running errands for the family. Or family members blame her when her client is disobedient, for example, if they won’t exercise.
Nonetheless, Ida says, “I’m lucky. Thank God all the employers I had were good to me. It really depends on the family.”
While Ida values the emotional nature of her work and is thankful for the opportunities she has had, she doesn’t want to sugar-coat just how difficult it can be to work as a caregiver from the Philippines in Canada—especially when you don’t have your permanent residence.
“Sometimes, you have to do it because you really have to. The [employers] offer money you can’t resist even if the job is really demanding. Sometimes, they even treat you like a slave. It’s important that we address these issues,” she insists.
*Name is a pseudonym. Photo used in banner is also a stand-in
Percent of caregivers in the program who are from the Philippines, almost entirely women (2014)
Percent of live-in caregivers who attend to seniors, compared to 77% who attend to childcare (2013)
Percent of Live-in Caregivers who had an undergraduate degree or higher in 2009, a sharp increase from 3% back in 1993 (2011)
Hours per week of unpaid overtime are performed by live-in caregivers (2014)