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.
Caregiver work should be treated like a globally traded commodity: U of T study
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.
In recent years, SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) has held a SSHRC Storytellers contest in which they solicit brief videos from students working on SSHRC-funded research projects. Most of the submissions come from graduate students but that didn’t deter Professor Ito Peng’s team of undergraduate research assistants from doing their own video based on Professor Peng’s SSHRC-funded partnership grant on Gender, Migration and the Work of Care.
The website Refinery29 recently wrote an article highlighting the work of women involved with UN Women; in it, they profiled Professor Ito Peng whose work as Director of the Centre for Global Social Policy and research into gender, migration and the work of care has her collaborating with a number of international agencies like UN Women, scholars from around the world, and policy partners.
Refinery29 is a digital media company with a global reach that focuses on women. It seeks to provide its audience with “the inspiration and tools to discover and pursue a more independent, stylish, and informed life.” Its content ranges from political commentary to style and fashion trends.
The article that features Professor Peng’s work included her as one of five interviewees from the many researchers, activists and policy makers who attended the 2017 UN Women Commission on the Status of Women.
With fully 60 percent of Canada’s recent influx of Syrian refugees being under the age of 15, this group is largely composed of children and the adults who care for them. The parents or primary caregivers of these children face both the enormous tasks involved in acclimatizing themselves to a new culture and environment and the strains linked to the financial support, schooling, and care of children. Funded by SSHRC as part of a special call for research into the experiences of the Syrian refugees, research by Professors Melissa Milkie, Neda Maghbouleh and Ito Peng seeks to understand the parenting stress that these new Canadians experience.
The three professors recently presented some of the early findings at the Metropolis conference in Montreal. Reporting on 43 wave 1 interviews, preliminary findings show three major stressors that Syrian refugee mothers experience. First, a major stressor for most Syrian refugee mothers upon resettlement is the crystallization of deep losses – such as the separation from close family members like their own parents, who are unable, unwilling or are not chosen to be resettled in Canada. The extended family is thus not able to support mothers in the ways they may have in the past. Second, school stressors exist for some families, but are relatively minor and most often solved readily; and/or resources to solve school concerns are clear. Finally, although mothers feel a sense of mastery in their successful creation of physical safety for their children, they experience a powerful cultural stressor in their lack of control over their children’s distant but impending adulthood in a new land with different cultural standards and norms.
They will be presenting an invited panel at the Canadian Sociological Association meeting on May 31st.
Congratulations to Professor Peng, named Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy
This honour recognizes Professor Peng’s academic achievements and her contributions to the emerging field of global social policy. The Canada Research Chair program recognizes scholars in Canada who are “outstanding, world-class researchers whose accomplishments have made a major impact in their fields,” who are recognized internationally as leaders in their fields, who have strong track records training students and who are currently planning innovative original research.
Professor Peng merits the honour as a leader in the field of global social policy. This emerging field seeks to understand how changes in globalization and modes of governance impact social and economic policies and individual citizenship rights at local, national and global levels. It draws its knowledge base from welfare state, political economy, public policy and development studies scholarship, and employs comparative and multi-scalar analysis methods in its analyses.
Professor Peng is one of the world authorities in global social policy, specializing in gender and family policies and welfare states in East Asia. Her research has brought conceptual and empirical understanding to social policy developments and change. Her work has been influential not only to comparative social policy and Asian political economy scholarships, but also for key global policy institutions, such as the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD), UN Women, International Labor Organization (ILO), and World Bank. Her research has shown how changes in domestic factors, such as demography, economy, labour market, and family and gender relations interact with global structures and actors in shaping social policy development within countries. Peng is currently the Director of the Centre for Global Social Policy in the Department of Sociology and the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC funded Partnership Research project (2013-2019), Gender, Migration and the Work of Care: an international comparative perspective.
Professor Peng is the fourth faculty member in the Department of Sociology to receive a Canada Research Chair. She is preceded by Professor John Myles who was a Canada Research Chair in the Social Foundations of Public Policy and Professor Monica Boyd who held the Canada Research Chair in Immigration, Integration and Public Policy. Professor Scott Schieman currently holds a Canada Research Chair in the Social Contexts of Health.
Established in 2013, The Centre for Global Social Policy functions as a hub supporting collaborative work that takes a global perspective to social policy research. The Centre is housed in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto; Professor Ito Peng is the Centre’s director.
The Centre’s work is currently dominated by a major project on gender, migration and the work of care. Funded by a SSHRC partnership grant, this multi-institutional project is investigating the ways in which the policies, practice, and the meanings of care are changing in the twenty-first century. Both migration patterns and shifting gender norms play a role in this even as cultural expectations and regulatory frameworks channel and shape the way people around the world perform the work of caring for each other.
The Centre is now halfway through the timeline of this major research project. The newly redesigned website provides descriptions of the goals of the sub-projects, the preliminary research results, and stories that have emerged from the research findings. Visit the new website also for information about upcoming events and training opportunities, and for profiles of the 60 researchers, policy and civil society partners, and students who have come together to share their expertise, learn from each other, and develop solutions for building a just and caring society for all.