The workshop will address the intersections between gender, migration and social care, locating Australian experience in an international context, with particular reference to Canada. It will create policy-focused dialogue between researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Care work is a highly gendered activity, with the vast majority of care workers being women, many of them migrants even though Australia (in contrast to Canada) does not directly recruit unskilled care workers. The workshop will result in clearer conceptualisation of the connections between gender, migration and care. It will identify key implications for policy makers, care recipients and the care workforce. Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Global Social Policy.

Across the OECD, governments are adopting new policies towards the provision of care (including aged care, child care and care for people with disabilities). Policy is increasingly focused on individualised, often home-based provision through measures such as personalised budgets, consumer-directed care (disability and aged care) and nannies (childcare). There is growing demand for personal assistants and in-home carers in rich countries. Countries are responding to this challenge in varying ways.

In Australia, migration policy is focused on the recruitment of skilled workers and there are few opportunities for care workers (who are typically deemed as unskilled) to migrate in their own right. Canada, by contrast, recruits domestic care workers through its Live-in Caregiver Program – a program that encourages families to employ migrant workers in their homes and provides a route to citizenship for individuals who would be excluded by migration policies that emphasise professional and trade skills. Australian unions and some large employers have been cautious about seeing migrants as a solution to workforce shortages; they have emphasised the importance of attracting and retaining local workers by raising pay, improving training and career paths and encouraging family-friendly work environments (LHMU 2010; ACSA 2011). Unions have worked to ensure that temporary overseas workers receive the same pay and conditions as local workers, reducing any potential advantage that might be obtained from recruiting a migrant workforce. However, as the Productivity Commission has shown in a series of reports into aged care, disability and child care, the demand for care workers in coming decades is likely to exceed the capacity of the local workforce. In light of the growing demand for workers willing to provide personal care in home-based and formal settings, Graeme Hugo (2009) has urged the Australian government to consider introducing a care migration scheme, similar to the Canadian Live-in Caregiver program, that would help to meet national workforce needs, protect the rights of migrant workers, and promote development in sending countries. Further, Hugo (2009) has noted the relevance of comparing Australia with Canada, given the similarity in the age-sex structure of the two countries, and the level of planning in their immigration programs. This workshop will bring together a mix of established and emerging scholars from Australia and Canada to develop a better understanding of the intersections between gender, care and migration. The workshop will leverage the workshop convenors’ engagement with a large, comparative project on Gender, Migration and Care led by Professor Ito Peng and funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The workshop will bring researchers from both countries together with Australian policy experts, service providers, and advocacy groups to address key intersecting issues surrounding care, gender and migration. SSHRC and the University of Toronto will meet the costs of travel and accommodation for the international participants.
The workshop will address the following themes and questions:
1) The shaping and framing of care: how is the concept of care socially, culturally and politically constructed in Australia and Canada and how is this changing?
2) Structural factors in the supply of, and demands for, care: how do social, economic, demographic and political conditions affect demands for care nationally and internationally?
3) Care provision: who provides care and under what conditions? In what ways, if at all, do the living and working conditions of migrant care givers differ from those of local workers?

For more information, please contact:
Mr Murray Radcliffe
Deputy Director
murray.radcliffe [at]
+61 .2 62491788