Migrant domestic workers, the forgotten “essential workers,” are working longer hours and are being denied access to their families. By speaking up, they risk losing their jobs and status.
When shelter-at-home directives were issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Quebec, Rachel, a domestic caregiver from the Philippines, said her employer asked her to stay at their home in a Montreal suburb 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The move was a precaution, and Rachel, whose name has been changed because she fears reprisals, said she understands the need to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. She’s also working for a family who treats her better than the family that employed her when she first came to Canada in 2017. That family forced her to work 11-hour days, gave her little to no privacy, and harshly criticized her, she said.
But the past two months have been difficult. “When you are working, if you’re not with your family, it’s so hard. You are always feeling homesick,” she said.
“Now in this pandemic situation, I feel more homesick than before.”
But lost in the conversation about “guardian angels” are thousands of migrants like Rachel who are granted work permits to provide in-home care to children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or chronic diseases.
Known as caregivers, these workers must complete 24 months of full-time employment in Canada within a set period before they can apply for permanent residency and bring their families to Canada.