“Real Work”

Canada is considering new immigration policies while competing with other western nations for immigrants. Manitoba premier Gary Doer signed an agreement with the Philippines government early this year to streamline the immigration process, and better connect Filipino applicants with potential employers.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Doer and the secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Labour and Employment in Manila, where the Manitoba premier had gone to drum up immigration. This is heartening news for a nation desperate for immigrants. It may also be good for the Philippines in certain ways since, according to the World Bank, the Philippines is the fifth-largest recipient of foreign remittances after India, China, Mexico and France.

The immigrant story is, however, not always a happy one, as borne out by press reports early in February saying a Filipino teenager was stabbed to death (in the Philippines). Her mother wept (in Vancouver) as she explained the problems she had encountered while working in a Canadian government-sponsored program that frequently separates children from their parents.

Nannies, maids, live-in caregivers for the elderly, mail-order brides and sex workers are being lured, or forced to migrate, from the third world to the first.

Women have always maintained that they bear the brunt of ill-effects caused by life and society, in general. So it may come as no surprise to know they also claim to bear the worst effects of globalization and labour migration.

The rich hiring the poor is hardly a new phenomenon. It is as old as class society. What is new is the globalization of a class structure in which the first world’s professional women find themselves in a position to hire third-world women to leave their own children and care for western ones.

The segment of middle-class western women now approaching upper-class wealth has grown. It is but a modern variation on the old theme of having indentured servants. First-world wives used to do the drudgery, but are now happy to pass it to poor third-world women. Meanwhile, western men play no small role in driving the international sex trade, and traffic in women.

Some Filipinos point out that cases of abuse of these women, or their separated children, are few and far between. It is easier to abuse a nanny in the third world, they maintain, because the laws are weaker there. They can’t find work in their home countries and, in Canada, earn five times what they might hope for at home. They get free board, lodging and, sometimes, a phone budget from their employers here.

Filipinas work as maids and nannies in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt as well. The women’s extended families, often their parents, usually look after their children very well. Cases of abuse of the children are rare. The women have the choice of immigrating to Canada or returning to the Philippines. With the right papers, their families may also immigrate under a federal program.

The economic disparity between countries of the first and third worlds encourages the migration of women. Third world countries can easily do without these migrant workers. Often, they comprise a majority of the unskilled labour force, because they haven’t the same access to education and property as their male compatriots.

Rampant third world poverty leads women to support their families by working overseas in jobs rejected by women of the first world. This increases racist sentiment in wealthy western countries, whose citizens are often eager to jump to the conclusion that third world women are congenitally submissive.

Economic, sexual, ethnic, educational and cultural inequalities place the female migrant in a subordinate position within multiple hierarchical dichotomies. Any solutions may be more complicated than the problems.

John Kenneth Galbraith, a 6’8″ farm boy from Southwestern Ontario who received 45 Hony. Doctorates and was an Economics lecturer at Harvard, wrote a book called “The Good Society.”

In this book, Galbraith mentioned some ideas which may have been distortedly applied to Canadian immigrants. The words “diversity,” “immigrants” and “ethnic communities” have evolved into euphemisms for “coloured people.” Galbraith pointed out that the word “work” can be used to describe two contrasting time commitments.

The first may be something one enjoys, and yields a sense of accomplishment. Without this sort of activity, one may experience a feeling of boredom, depression or social rejection. This sort of “work” defines social position. It is that of the financier, teacher, journalist, accountant or artiste.

The second sort of work, “real work,” is the one characterized by repetitive, tiring, tedious, economically enforced muscular effort, which places you among the anonymous, toiling masses. This sort of work is done by the labourer or telemarketer. Though little muscular effort is called for from the telemarketer, her work is monotonous enough.

A major economic incentive in the good society, said Galbraith, is the desire to move from “real work” to “work.” A good society gives its members the opportunity for upward economic and social movement. This creates a vacuum at the bottom which many in Canada seem to think, like Galbraith, that it is the function of immigrants to fill.

Hence the constant need to replenish the supply of “real workers” for monotonous, non-prestigious toil should be met by escapees from the more tedious, more ill-paid employment in poorer countries, or those with no employment at all. For them, the lower pay and “real work” available in affluent lands like Canada are still far better than anything they could find in their old countries.

The distorted application of Galbraith’s hypothesis lies in that Canadians recruit physicians, journalists, dentists, teachers, engineers, accountants and other professionals as immigrants. Then they expect them to do “real work” on arrival in Canada, which is absurd.

A top management executive in India’s largest industrial group estimated that only 15 per cent of that country’s annual three million graduates are suitable for employment in its blue-chip firms. Yet it is doubtful that even 15 per cent of Indian immigrants work in Canadian blue-chip firms.

Nannies, maids, sex workers and trades people are what this country is eager to employ, so it should recruit people who are already doing “real work” in their old countries as immigrants, not professionals.

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