The Politics of (De)valuation in an Era of Constrained Public Spending: The Case of Midwifery: Cynthia Spring (York University) Abstract: On September 24, 2018, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled that the failure of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to proactively monitor and regularly negotiate midwives’ compensation rates constitutes discrimination. In addition to revealing a significant pay gap between midwives and professionals performing similar roles, this landmark decision provides a window into the gendered nature of the state’s efforts to constrain public spending while seeking to provide high quality healthcare provision in an era of austerity.
Taking this legal case as its starting point, my paper develops an analytical framework for identifying and interrogating mechanisms surrounding the (de)valuation of feminized professions in healthcare, such as midwifery. Adopting a feminist political economy approach, it illuminates how, and in what ways, under neoliberalism, midwifery has become destabilized and devalued through governing practices characteristic of this era; it specifically explores how the government of Ontario’s efforts to cast midwives as autonomous primary health practitioners, as a means of maintaining the conditions necessary for a sustainable process of social reproduction, interacts with large-scale efforts to limit public spending. Through this analysis I ask whether, in an era characterized by constrained public spending and the simultaneous withdrawal and reconfiguration of collective responsibility, midwives are absorbing costs of services integral to social reproduction that rightly belong in the domain of publicly provided healthcare provision. Ultimately, this paper seeks to show how allegedly “neutral” laws, policies and regulations, contribute to the devaluation of a feminized occupation fulfilling a vital role in reproductive health care.
Social Reproduction and Migrant Domestic Work: The Case of Kafala Migration in the Gulf Region: Siobhan Saravanamuttu (York University) Abstract: This paper examines the role of migrant women domestic workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, investigating the utility of Social Reproduction Theory in assessing economic production and social relations in Gulf societies. Tracing the development of Kafala migration in the Gulf and temporary flows of feminized migrant labour, it delves into the specific contributions of poor, racialized women to the reproduction of social relations of class in the Gulf as well as labour regeneration in their own home countries. Demonstrating that the commodification of migrant women’s domestic care work directly contributes to capital accumulation in the Gulf region, as well as to the maintenance of class relations, the paper problematizes analyses of production and accumulation in the region which often fail to consider a gendered analysis of migrant work.
Through a historical materialist feminist analysis of social reproduction, this paper argues that Gulf migrant labour is not a gender-neutral phenomenon. Rather, migration in the Gulf states is shown to be a structural process of racialized and gendered exploitation, actively engaged in by both host and sending states, in order to solidify the reproduction of class and economic relations of production under neoliberal capitalism.
Turning Points in the Canadian Experience of Gender and Trade: Judit Fabian (University of Calgary) Abstract: The progressive turn in Canada’s trade policy has attracted significant attention since the advent of the Trudeau government. This is particularly true of its gender component. It is, however, only the most recent stage in a developmental arc that began with the negotiations for NAFTA in the early 1990s. ‘Gender and trade’ is therefore not new, and not a recent innovation to placate EU interests, but the continuation of a three-decades-long developmental process that Canada has often led. The paper shows this by defining and describing the turning points of Canada’s role in incorporating gender within trade agreements since the 1990s, and how gender is incorporated within Canada’s trade policy at present.