Canada’s live-in caregiver program that supplies low cost nannies from abroad “ran out of control” and will be reformed in the “fairly near future,” Employment Minister Jason Kenney said. He added that the government-run program that allows families to hire abroad has turned into a program of “family reunification,” whereby thousands of foreigners are coming to work for their own relatives in jobs that might otherwise not exist.
The live-in caregiver program fills a gap in elder and child care as part of the temporary foreign workers program, but was exempt from Mr. Kenney’s extensive overhaul of that controversial visa stream announced last week. Unlike other temporary worker visas, once caregivers complete 24 months of full-time employment, they are allowed to apply for permanent residency in Canada for themselves and their families.
Mr. Kenney said his colleague, Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, will be announcing reforms soon but refused to elaborate on what they were, or when they would be introduced.
A government document from 2012 warned that as many as 40% of applicants could be using the program for family reunification. Between 2008 and 2013, the program granted permanent residency to more than 60,000 live-in caregivers and their families. More than 90% of primary applicants are women from the Philippines.
The government says it will process 17,500 applications in 2014 but receives new applicants daily who have between two to five people they want to bring to Canada. Despite repeated requests, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has refused to release the most up-to-date backlog figures.
Manuela Gruber Hersch, director of the Association of Nanny and Caregiver Agencies, says demand for caregivers is huge, but that the government has been quietly trying to lower numbers for the past few years, by making it harder for families to hire a caregiver. Applications have dropped from a high of 20,000 in 2007, to an average now of about 9,000 a year.
“Families are no longer willing to go through all the red tape and pay fees for something that takes so long and might not work out,” she said. However, this has led to fake employers who charge applicants to bring them into the country, or a family member “sponsoring” relatives.
Audrey Macklin, immigration expert and University of Toronto law professor, said the program in its current form essentially compensates live-in caregivers with a chance to stay in the country after “exploiting” them for two years with low wages and undesirable working conditions.
Ms. Macklin said the options are: force families to figure out an alternative method of managing; admit live-in caregivers as permanent residents; or admit them subject to the four-year-in four-year-out rule, just like other temporary foreign workers.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver lawyer and immigration policy analyst, said he believes the program will be phased-out so as not to cause havoc for families and eventually will be scrapped altogether.
Source: National Post