Problems of Immigrant Women in the Canadian Labour Force

Publisher:  Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women
Year Published:  1981  
Pages:  50pp  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX2347

The purpose of this paper is to fill in some of the information gaps relating to the immigrant woman's role and experience in the Canadian labour market.

Abstract:  The purpose of this paper is to fill in some of the information gaps relating to the immigrant woman's role and experience in the Canadian labour market. Generally speaking, the federal government has ignored the role and experience of immigrant women in the labour force. Statistics do not take proper account of them and research projects are written as if they hardly exist. In order to give perspective on this issue, the author outlines a labour market profile of the immigrant woman; this is done in comparison to that of the Canadian woman, the Canadian man and the immigrant man.

Immigrant women tend to be located on the top and bottom rungs of the labour market ladder with little representation in between. Labour force figures show that in the well-paid professional and technical occupations, immigrant women compare favourably in numbers to other groups. However, in certain low-wage service and manufacturing jobs, immigrant women are over-represented.

More than any other group, immigrant women are located in the poorly-paid labour market sector where they work as domestics, chamber maids, building cleaners, dishwashers, waitresses, sewing machines operators and plastics workers. Ignored by unions and inadequately protected by provincial labour legislation, they occupy the bottom rung of the "vertical mosaic."

The labour-related problems of the most disadvantaged immigrant women are described in this report with a special look at the garment and textile industry as well as at domestic workers. These two key areas are examined to illustrate the kinds of problems immigrant women face in relation to provincial and federal policies and legislation; these include minimum labour standards legislation at the provincial level, work permit regulations for foreign domestics, language training and the Immigration Act at the federal level.

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