Gender, Migration, & The Work of Care

Project Profiles Research Findings

Immigrant Labour Markets for Personal Care Work

A Comparative Analysis of Immigrants in Home-Based Personal Care Work

Project Lead


  • Young Shin

  • Jennifer Jihye Chun

Partners & Collaborating Organizations

  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) healthcare
  • Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA)
  • Filipino American Services Group Inc. (FASGI) in Los Angeles
  • Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) in Los Angeles
  • Service Employees International Union (Local 2015) in Los Angeles

Students & Post-Docs

This comparative analysis documents the experiences of personal care workers – those who are paid to help people with physical limitations (due to disabilities, illness, or ageing) function in their day-to-day lives.

Why and how did personal care workers come to do this work? What do they like and dislike about it? How do they think things could be improved and what efforts are being made to do so?

The project builds on an earlier Toronto-Los Angeles study. In this phase, we interview women from China, Korea, and the Philippines working in different locations in California.

In California, care recipients hire and fire care workers, but state entities determine the hours and pay, and bargain with unions over wages and benefits. In Ontario, immigrants are hired and paid by both for-profit and not-for-profit agencies – some unionized – contracted by the state. In both places, most workers are permanent residents or naturalized citizens but may have entered under different statuses. Ethnic economies – where the workers and service users are of the same race or ethnicity and work and live in the same neighbourhoods, are present, especially in California.

We ask how different structures of employment and different migrant statuses, along with ethnic and racial difference, shape workers’ lives. And how do all these factors shape organizing to improve work conditions?

Refereed publications

Chun, Jennifer and Cynthia Cranford. 2018. “Becoming Homecare Workers: Chinese Immigrant Women and the Changing Worlds of Work, Care and Unionism.” Critical Sociology, published online in Jan. DOI: 10.1177/0896920517748499

Cranford, Cynthia Angela Hick and Louise Birdsell Bauer. 2018. “Lived Experiences of Social Unionism: Toronto Homecare Workers in the late 2000s.” Labor Studies Journal 43(1): 74-96.

Kim, Yang-Sook. 2018. “Care Work and Ethnic Boundary Making in South Korea.” Critical Sociology. DOI: 10.1177/0896920518766397.

Kim, Yang-Sook and Jennifer Chun. Forthcoming. “Feminist Entanglements with the Neoliberal Welfare State: NGOs and Domestic Worker Organizing in South Korea.” Political Power and Social Theory, Special Issue: Gender and Informal and Precarious Worker Organizing.

5 clear language summaries of findings from the first stage of the Toronto and Los Angeles case studies organized around the theme “Flexibility or Security”:

In Progress