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Employers¿ paradoxical views about temporary foreign migrant workers¿ health: a qualitative study in rural farms in Southern Ontario

01 Aug 2014

The province of Ontario hosts nearly a half of Canada’s temporary foreign migrant farm workers (MFWs). Despite the essential role played by MFWs in the economic prosperity of the region, a growing body of research suggests that the workers’ occupational safety and health are substandard, and often neglected by employers. This study thus explores farm owners’ perceptions about MFWs occupational safety and general health, and their attitudes towards health promotion for their employees.
Using modified grounded theory approach, we collected data through in-depth individual interviews with farm owners employing MFWs in southern Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed following three steps (open, axial, and selective coding) to identify thematic patterns and relationships. Nine employers or their representatives were interviewed.
Four major overarching categories were identified: employers’ dependence on MFWs; their fragmented view of occupational safety and health; their blurring of the boundaries between the work and personal lives of the MFWs on their farms; and their reluctance to implement health promotion programs. The interaction of these categories suggests the complex social processes through which employers come to hold these paradoxical attitudes towards workers’ safety and health. There is a fundamental contradiction between what employers considered public versus personal. Despite employers’ preference to separate MFWs’ workplace safety from personal health issues, due to the fact that workers live within their employers' property, workers' private life becomes public making their personal health a business-related concern. Farmers’ conflicting views, combined with a lack of support from governing bodies, hold back timely implementation of health promotion activities in the workplace.
In order to address the needs of MFWs in a more integrated manner, an ecological view of health, which includes the social and psychological determinants of health, by employers is necessary. Employers and other stakeholders should work collaboratively to find a common ground, harnessing expertise and resources to develop more community-based approaches. Further research and continuous dialogue are needed.

1 August 2014

Click here to view the full article which appeared in International Journal for Equity in Health