Interview with Agnès Berthelot-Raffard, Replacement Professor at the Institute for Feminist and Gender Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences, on the place of women in the care field in the new global economy.
Professor Agnès Berthelot-Raffard's research focuses on gender injustice in the field of care. Among other things, she focuses on the place given to migrant women workers to help fill the critical shortage of staff the pediatric and geriatric sectors in Canada. For example, the government's new program to help become a "permanent resident working as a family caregiver" aims to attract eminently qualified nurses, which are crucial to Canada’s health care institutions. In reality, internationally trained professionals who have migrated to Canada often find themselves downlisted to lower categories of jobs in private homes. What are the consequences for these highly skilled women? Since these women leave behind their family and country to immigrate to Canada, these families become transnational. The implications of care not only have consequences on the lives of many children and elderly people, but also on the economy from which these women come from.
Women’s vulnerability increased by migration
After her doctoral thesis in philosophy, Professor Berthelot-Raffard decided to focus on the social, political and moral issues raised by home care for elderly or disabled persons by their family members (informal care givers). While resourcing to paid workers as a solution, we soon realized that it is in fact a bad idea from all perspectives. The Living in Caregiver Program offered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada generates certain conditions which are significantly more likely to involve abuse. In order to reduce violence against women, measures must be taken to ensure fair immigration laws. This is essential to cushion the social impact on women whose vulnerability is intensified by migration.
Women's domesticity in Canada
In order to gain a greater understanding of the situation, Berthelot-Raffard began by examining the history of immigration in Canada. She quickly discovered that Canada is a nation which has a deep history of domesticating Indigenous, Black and Asian women; and she was not anticipating this kind of result, not remotely.
"While the domesticity of women is certainly not new, we have not kept discussing it as much as we should have! This has a major effect on mental representations of femininity associated with women. If we are willing to talk about it openly, it would help raise public awareness on the importance of social justice to certain groups of women and would defuse tensions over the issue of systemic racism in Quebec and Ontario”, explains Professor Berthelot-Raffard.
Care-giving is not only for the most vulnerable population such as children, ageing or disabled people; we are all concerned and likely to be impacted by this new economy and its development, whether indirectly through people who depend on us or directly through personal care services. As Arlie Hochschild rightfully underlines with the notion of emotional capitalism, care-related tasks are now part of a market designed to make us more proficient so that we can meet our life goals. To that extent, we must take into account the fact that we use care-giving to fulfill our social, family and relational obligations regardless of our gender. "I feel like we bear the responsibility for development of the economy of care, which the moral aspect is never questioned”, she adds.
CIRCEM Associate Researcher, Ethics of Care
At the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minorities (CIRCEM), Professor Berthelot-Raffard pursues her reflection in relation to the ethics and policies of care, concern and vulnerability, highlighting social problems that are still invisible. Since one of her other fields of research concerns Black Feminism, she is increasingly interested in the links between care and intersectionality, which is still little theorized. Indeed, the non-recognition of the value of care work is undoubtedly related to the gender, social position, ethnicity and nationality of those working in this field.
This research is constantly evolving, to be closely monitored, especially as Professor Berthelot-Raffard will have the opportunity to present her work accomplished within CIRCEM in April 2018, in the framework of a conference entitled " Concerning Nannies: A Requirement Between Ethics Of Rights And Ethics Of Care".