What’s Past is Prologue: Comparing Long-term Care Workers and Working Conditions Between Canada and Nordic Countries 10 Years Later

In 2006, our team was funded by CIHR to conduct the Long-term Care Workers’ Survey (LTC-WS) to better understand the work of Canada’s highly gendered LTC labour force and to compare conditions here with the Nordic countries. This groundbreaking survey was conducted in three Canadian provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia) as well as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, and later in Germany and Japan. It advanced knowledge about work in LTC facilities in Canada and internationally, highlighting issues surrounding gender, work and care. The results underlined challenges related to staffing, models of care and workers’ exposure to violence in LTC facilities in Canada.

Today Canada’s long-term care (LTC) workforce is undergoing major shifts in demographics, working conditions and work organization, involving new challenges and opportunities. Our team has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to provide fresh comparative insight into the nature of contemporary work in LTC. Led by Dr. Tamara Daly, a CIHR Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health, this four year mixed-method project brings together a multi-disciplinary team of experts and partners representing LTC workers across the country. It focuses on exploring the current nature of work in LTC five Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

A new, expanded survey for LTC workers is currently underway, as are complementary surveys for informal caregivers, paid companions, and managers in LTC facilities to build on the work started with the Invisible Women Study. Survey results, together with findings from ethnographic observation, focus groups and interviews, will improve understanding of work, working conditions, and work organization. In collaboration with our Nordic colleagues, who are also conducting a revised survey for LTC workers, we will extend and expand current understandings of different forms of work in different jurisdictions. In examining a wide spectrum of formal and informal work in LTC settings, this project will provide urgently needed insights into recent changes as well as key challenges and opportunities for the future in this important sector.