The Dynamics of Stigma and Labelling of Immigrant Personal Support Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Windsor, Ontario
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the lives of workers from varying socio-economic backgrounds in Canada. This study focuses on essential immigrant workers who made fundamental contributions during this unprecedented public health crisis. Specifically, our study explores the lived experiences of immigrant personal support workers (PSWs). Immigrant PSWs were labelled “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the critical tasks they performed in the pandemic response. However, immigrant PSWs found themselves in a duality of public opinion as being recognized as essential workers yet being stigmatized as potential sources for the spread of COVID-19. Our study looks at the influence of stigma and labelling on immigrant PSWs in the Windsor area, as well as employer and workplace challenges. Drawing on data from twenty-five in-depth interviews from Windsor and surrounding areas, we learned that this group faced a number of challenges, including being seen as dirty, which led to having to change daily routines. In some instances, they were blamed for bringing the virus to Canada because of their immigration status. Workplace challenges related to unsafe work environments, lack of personal protective equipment and ineffective communication with clients were common issues among participants in the study. This study sheds light on the issues that remain in this field, while giving us a first-hand account of the changes that immigrant PSWs would like to see in the future toward improving their health and well-being in times of crises and beyond.