University of Lethbridge researcher plays key role in national project to understand global supply and demand of migrant care workers

Monday, December 2, 2013

A University of Lethbridge researcher is exploring whether the reliance of migrant care workers in immigrant-receiving countries like Canada, Japan, the United States and South Korea is driven by global and regional income inequalities.

The U of L’s Dr. Susan McDaniel, as part of a $2.85 million Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant on Gender, Migration and the Work of Care, centered at the University of Toronto, is leading a team of researchers that is exploring the demographic, economic and policy factors that affect the global supply and demand of migrant care workers, as well as the “care deficits” that result from this migration of women out of countries in East Asia.

“We are interested in the supply and demand of care,” explains Dr. McDaniel, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Global Population and Life Course, as well as Prentice Research Chair in Global Population and Economy. “We’re looking at income inequalities in various countries and what that means for the potential supply of caregivers, because there are an increasing number of people at the bottom end of the income distribution.”

In countries in the Asia Pacific region that traditionally supply immigrant or temporary-workers, governments have been encouraging the out-migration of care workers. Economic globalization and neoliberal economic policies have increased unemployment and underemployment, encouraging some care workers to migrate for work.

“The question that we’re asking is, how does the demographic and economic structure of the various countries play into the supply and demand for care? The standard line is that when you have an aging population, you’re going to have a greater demand for care and therefore more care workers,” says McDaniel. “But we suspect that may not be the case, that it may not be demand that is creating care migration. In a country like Japan, which has a very elderly population, there’s not a huge demand for caregivers because family care is still a priority. So there’s not an automatic relationship.”

McDaniel’s team is one of eight groups of researchers involved with the project. The teams are comprised of top academic researchers partnering with international institutes, policy-makers and labour and advocacy organizations.

The project headed by McDaniel will benefit from her affiliation with the U of L’s Prentice Institute, her Canada Research Chair program, partnerships Employment and Social Development Canada as well as the SSHRC-funded Strategic Cluster in Population Change and Life Course.

McDaniel’s team includes the University’s Dr. Glenda Bonifacio (Women and Gender Studies) and other researchers from across Canada and southern Asia as well as several graduate students and post-doctoral fellows associated with the Prentice Institute.

Vice-President (Research) Dr. Dan Weeks says he is not surprised that U of L researchers have been included in this important project, saying the capacity that exists at the University for this type of research is significant and growing.

“The Prentice Institute and its researchers are sought after because of the relevance and breadth of their expertise. The knowledge that will be gained by Dr. McDaniel and her team will have lasting value for global communities,” says Weeks.          

The Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy is a multi-disciplinary, cross-faculty institute dedicated to researching the long-term global impacts of demographic, economic and social issues related to changes in the world population patterns. The Institute was launched in 2009. The Prentice Institute collaborates with researchers in Canada and elsewhere to address some of the most difficult challenges of the next generation and beyond.

The study will continue over a five-year period. McDaniel will present initial findings as a keynote speaker at a conference on Transnational Aging at the University of Southern California in January 2014.

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