Exploring the impacts of precarious work and family caregiving on the health of African immigrant women amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada.
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Introduction: Immigrants’ health and wellbeing in host countries have long been an important but controversial issue, hampered by systemic inequalities. In Canada, immigrants constitute over one-fifth of the total population and are an indispensable contributor to the strong economy. However, studies show that while immigrants are healthy when they arrive, they subsequently face health deterioration: one which is worse than those of recent immigrants and the Canadian-born population; a phenomenon described as the “healthy immigrant effect”. One crucial but underestimated determinant of immigrants’ health is their employment conditions. Most immigrants are “caught in” precarious work as they lack the Canadian-specific qualifications to work in well-paid and secured jobs. While most immigrants experience employment disparities, African immigrant women have it worse. They constitute the poorest racialized group and suffer severe socio-economic marginalization. The reality of being an African woman and a member of a racial minority group intersect to create disadvantages that may not similarly affect other populations. Moreover, the lack of scholarly work on their labour market relations complicates and widens the economic disparities they face. Family caregiving forms a vital aspect of life for immigrant women and women of colour; and they take on a disproportionate amount of both paid and unpaid family caregiving. Although family caregiving signifies an act of love, it exerts both a physical and emotional toll on women’s health. Also, the stress and strain of caregiving often exacerbate existing health conditions or cause new health problems for caregivers. While COVID-19 affected everyone, some individuals are at a greater risk of developing severe health and economic complications due to their social location. The study objective is therefore to explore the impacts of precarious work and family caregiving on the health of African immigrant women during COVID-19 in Ontario. Methods: This dissertation research utilized a qualitative research design, and it was informed by the theory of Intersectionality to examine the impact of precarious work and family caregiving on the health of Black African immigrant women’s health during COVID-19 in Ontario. Briefly, the objectives of this study were: to examine the how the intersectional identities of African immigrant women impact their employment experiences in Canada, to explore the unique experiences that accompany African immigrant women navigating their precarious work and family caregiving responsibilities during a pandemic, and to provide a broader scientific understanding of issues related to systemic inequities and health for African immigrant women during COVID-19 in Canada. Two manuscripts addressed these objectives by drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 15 precariously employed African immigrant women in Ontario. Thematic narrative analysis was used to analyze data and to provide rich layers of information. One manuscript addressed these objectives by using in depth literature review and an intersectional framework to discuss how the social identities of African immigrants (including women) intersected to create systemic inequities for them. Findings: Our study results suggested that the intersection of African immigrant women’s social identities such as race, gender, and immigration status, predisposed them to poor employment, housing and health outcomes. The effects of COVID-19 further worsened their socio-economic status and placed them at high risks of poor health outcomes. Our study results also found that that African immigrant women faced challenges in their search of professional jobs due to the non-recognition of foreign credentials in the Canadian labor market. Thus, they were forced to settle for low-status jobs and continued to experience poor labour market outcomes such as poverty. Their experiences in the labour market were mainly reflected in the intersection of their race, education, immigration status, and gender. Finally, our findings revealed that African immigrant women struggled to balance their precarious work and household responsibilities. During COVID-19, their household and precarious work responsibilities increased, but they received limited support. As a result, they faced health and socio-economic challenges. Conclusion: Our study expanded the understanding of how the intersection of African immigrant women’s social identities of led to their employment challenges and struggles in effectively balancing their work-family responsibilities during COVID-19. Our study also contributed to the scientific understanding of issues related to systemic inequities in work, living conditions and health among African immigrants (women) in Canada. Equity-focused research, policy initiatives, and strategies are encouraged to take an intersectional approach to understanding how social identities interact and contribute to inequities in the settlement and employment integration of immigrant women especially. Finally, a critical race perspective is needed in protecting immigrant workers’ rights. This will hold employers and policymakers economically and socially accountable for discriminative work conditions and practices.
Cite this version of the work
Joyceline Amoako (2023). Exploring the impacts of precarious work and family caregiving on the health of African immigrant women amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada.. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19143