Monday, 24 August 2009

who'll be caring for you?

there's a new department of labour report out about "the growing reliance on migrant caregivers":

New Zealand’s population is rapidly ageing. It is estimated that in 2031 those 65 and older will represent 35 percent of the population aged 15-64. While part of this increase is due to healthy ageing, nevertheless the number of people requiring some form of care is projected to dramatically increase. It is projected that 48,200 paid caregivers will be needed by 2036 to look after a growing number of older disabled New Zealanders requiring high levels of care and support. It is highly unlikely that the local supply will be sufficient to meet this demand. Therefore immigration of low-skill workers needs to be considered as a part of the measures needed to alleviate the future pressures on the demand for paid caregivers for the elderly. New Zealand does not have a formal scheme for caregiver migration. However there has been a rapid and growing reliance on migrant caregivers for the elderly over the last five years. Globally as the demand for elder care grows, New Zealand may not be able to rely on the current sources of migrant caregivers for the elderly and alternative regions such as Melanesia and non-traditional parts of Asia need to be considered. While temporary migration is one option, programmes that provide pathways to permanent migration also need to be considered.

melanesia and non-traditional parts of asia. in other words women of colour. still doing the work that the rest of the nation doesn't want to dirty their hands with. still doing it for very little pay. the age of servitude is not really over, is it?

after all, the first paragraph of the abstract goes like this:

Caring for the elderly is perceived to be a relatively low skilled, low paid and a low status vocation. This makes it difficult to attract people, especially young people from the local labour force into this vocation. Reflecting the type of work and its status, caring is highly gendered.

it's more than gendered, there is also the issue of race. but page 9 & 10 of the report (pdf file) refers to an OECD report which came out with recommendations to improve the caregiver workforce, only one of which related to migration. they talk about improved pay rates, better training, a career structure, improved safety standards, better use of IT and health promotion.

this particular report has a focus on migration, and the danger is that we will continue to import women who will do this work for low wages, instead of working on the measures outlined in the by the OECD report. after all, it's easier and cheaper. and there is no shortage of people wanting to migrate to this country.

a final point: in all the talk of pay equity, there is little discussion about equity in the wages of women of colour as compared to white women. i'd like to see more information about that, and some thought put into strategies to reduce inequities.

(hat tip: ruth desouza posting to AEN)


Cactus Kate said...

Sorry but I am generally in favour of things blogged on this site but this is appalling.

Do you have an issue with migrants looking after people?

Seriously. This post, if made by a supposed "right winger" would be deemed highly racist and offensive.

When you are spitting dribble into an icecream container when you are 90 does it really matter what race the person is looking after you?

Because chances are it will be of a non-white person.

Anna said...

I read a very poignant book about this happening in Canada. Women (esp from the Philipines) went into nannying/housekeeping jobs in Canada, for which they received board and very little else - jobs that Canadians wouldn't do. They had to work for a number of years to get residency, in order to bring their own kids to Canada for a better life. They'd remit wages back home, and their kids would grow up as strangers to them while they cared for other people's children. The irony of it was that their labour was freeing white professional women to go to work. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

stargazer said...

way to miss the point kate. it's about using migrant labour in order to keep wages and conditions poor in a vital industry. and it's about white people execting people of colour to do that low-paid and poorly recognised work. why does the report recommend looking to melanesia and other parts of asia, rather than other parts of the world for this kind of work? it's an exploitation of poverty. and yes, i object to that.

katy said...

Anna, I had a colleague when I lived in Tokyo who had a Filipina nanny, after 4 or 5 years living with my colleague's family (and about 10 years in Japan) the nanny found that she was very sick with stomach cancer. Her visa had expired and she didn't have health insurance (illegal) so she had no option but to go back to the Philippines "for treatment" and when making the arrangements to go back it came out that the money she had been sending back for savings and for her daughter (the reason she left in the first place) had just been spent by her brother. It was the most heartbreaking situation but what I found really hard to understand was the attitude of the family she had been working for/living with; this was a very wealthy American/Japanese family and from their perspective they were devastated that their employee had been "lying" to them (by working without a visa).

Hugh said...

I am generally in favour of things blogged on this site

Quoted for humour.

Anna said...

Katy, that is just unbelievably awful - more so, because situations involving visa and healthcare difficulties probably aren't that uncommon for women in this situation.

I'm reminded too of when NZ recruited Pasifika workers in the 70s, to do the jobs kiwis wouldn't - when the economy tightened we couldn't dawn raid them and send them home quick enough. The response to the current economic crisis has also been 'last on, first off' for overseas workers. The same would likely happen for another wave of immigrant workers (although at least the industry they're in would be reasonably secure, if badly paid).

My sister-in-law did her dissertation on the same phenomenon in China, except with rural girls and women going to do domestic work for city families. Some pretty grim stories of exploitation there too.

Anonymous said...

Who'll be caring for them?
We bring in people to work minimum wage jobs and minimum wage is slightly less than average rent.
If another family on the state housing list is the answer we've got to change the question.