U of T hosts 2019 Global Carework Summit

A black and white close-up photograph of an elderly couple holding hands.
Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 4:00pm
Blake Eligh

Over three days in June, more than 200 scholars, practitioners and activists gathered at U of T’s Hart House for the 2019 Global Carework Summit to consider the challenges and solutions facing the carework sector around the world.

Carework is a broad occupational category that includes such diverse fields as health care, child care and teaching, as well as paid and unpaid domestic labour.

The summit, which featured presentations on labour rights, migration, aging and health, was co-organized by Associate Professor Cynthia Cranford of the Department of Sociology at U of T Mississauga. This is the second year for the biannual event, which was previously tied to the annual American Sociology Association meeting before becoming a standalone summit.

“This is an interdisciplinary field, with researchers and activists working in geography, policy, sociology and social work, as well as health studies,” Cranford says. “These related disciplines can shed light on the dilemmas that we face.”

“For example, the nexus of care and migration is becoming more and more important as countries try to deal with aging populations, disabled people, child care, elder care and chronic illness,” Cranford says, noting that carework is often performed by migrant populations.

Keynote speaker Juliana Martínez Franzoni, an associate professor with the Universidad de Costa Rica, discussed her study of Latin American care regimes, including the ways that policies and ideas about care are managed by different governments. York University professor of sociology Pat Armstrong discussed her study of the feminization of the care labour force.

Along with presentations, the summit featured workshops and panel discussions on a number of topics, including a recent report from the International Labour Organization on ensuring that paid care work is well-paid and valued. “As governments and the private sector respond to pressures to cut costs, the pressure on careworkers also increases,” Cranford says. “There are legitimate labour concerns about worker rights and safety. Labour laws and policies that protect workers were designed after World War II to deal with the steel and auto industries, not carework situations. That shapes what policy groups do to try to improve conditions.”

“We wanted to bring in the local care environment, as well,” Cranford says. “We invited local advocates and activists involved in care work, including representatives from the Ontario Health Coalition which is challenging the privatization of health care, and the Caregivers Action Centre, which focuses on migrant caregivers,” she says.

Among the presenters from U of T were Cranford, who studies immigration and home care work in Canada and the United States, and sociology professor Monica Boyd, who studies caregiving and migration policy in Canada and the U.S.

The summit was funded in part by the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy; the Center for Women & Work, University of Massachusetts Lowell; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded “Gender Migration and Work of Care Project” at U of T’s Centre for Global Social Policy, directed by professor of sociology and public policy Ito Peng, who studies how Asian countries respond to aging populations; the Tri-Campus Graduate Department of Sociology; UTM’s Vice-Principal, Research; and UTM’s Department of Sociology.