Professor Ito Peng is the Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy and the Principle Investigator of the SSHRC funded partnership research project titled Gender, Migration, and the Work of Care. Her research on migrant care work was recently featured in an article by the University of Toronto's Faculty of Arts and Science News. We have posted an excerpt below.
By Peter Boisseau
Demand for care of elders and children is increasing, but inequality has kept wages low
The growing importance of care work has created both challenges and opportunities to address racial, economic and gender inequality at home and abroad, says a Faculty of Arts & Science researcher who has been studying the issue for almost five years.
While there are now more people working in nursing homes in the United States than in steel and automobile manufacturing combined, wages and conditions in most of the developed world are often abysmal for care workers, many of them migrant women from less-developed countries, says sociology professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy, Ito Peng.
“The care economy is huge, with major impacts on those involved both as carers and cared-for, and what I’m trying to do in my research is provide information and a larger framework for people to understand how important this is,” says Peng.
“We have to start to treat care work as a form of globally traded commodity, like environmental and natural resources that are often undervalued and inadequately accounted in national economic accounts. I hope to generate a public debate about this. I think once people understand, we can make progressive changes and not try to hire care workers for exploitative wages.”
An aging population and more affluent women in the paid workforce have pushed demand up for nannies and other care workers, but inequality has kept wages low, says Peng.