Can women working in essential services access government services?

This study aims at understanding lived experiences of recent immigrant women working in the accommodation and food services industry in British Columbia in accessing government COVID-19 socio-economic programs.

This will allow us to assess the successes and gaps in the COVID-19 response so as to provide guidance and recommendations to those crafting policies and advocating for the rights of those affected.

We hope to engage 20+ recent immigrant women (who have lived in Canada for 10 years or less at the start of the pandemic) who have worked in the accommodation and food service industry at some point since March 2020 and who have been economically affected by COVID-19. Participants will be asked to complete a short (less than 10 minutes) questionnaire and then participate in 30 to 60 minute semi-structured interview over the phone or computer. Interviewees will be provided with a $25 visa gift card as an honorarium as a token of appreciation.

Do you identify as a women and recent immigrant who works in the food service and accommodation industry? If yes, please consider participating by filling in this questionnaire

We would also like to conduct semi-structured key informant interviews with those with knowledge of working conditions in the accommodation and food service industry, immigrant worker rights and related topics. These will be conducted over phone or computer and last 30 to 60 minutes. If you are available for a key informant interview please contact Alice Murage at 

The COVID-19 pandemic as well as government response policies have had differential and intersectional effects. Studies indicate that recent immigrant women working in the accommodation and food services industry likely represent a demographic most economically impacted by COVID-19 and least likely to have benefited from government response programs. 

Women were disproportionately impacted by job loss or reduced incomes (Scott 2020) partly because of the type of occupation and employment arrangement they hold such as temporary, casual, and ununionized employment (YWCA 2020; West Coast Leaf 2020). These arrangements are common in the accommodation and food services industry (Child Public Health Officer Canada 2020)- an industry that disproportionately employs immigrants. While immigrants make up 26% of overall employment, they represent 35% of employment in the industry (Statistics Canada 2018). Earlier in the pandemic, it was noted that unemployment was more common among recent immigrants compared to long-term immigrants or Canadian-born residents (Statistics Canada 2020). Despite this economic impact, a recent questionnaire revealed that only 48% of participating immigrants who lost a job or experienced reduced hours reported receiving CERB or EI (World Education Services 2021). Many were unaware of the benefits or believed they did not qualify. Research conducted by the Gender and COVID-19 project in June 2020, also indicated barriers associated with eligibility criteria and access to information among immigrants.

This research is part of the Gender and COVID-19 Project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and is based in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University. The project commenced in 2020 and will be completed in 2022. The purpose of the Project is to identify and document the differential gendered effects of the outbreak and gaps in preparedness and response measures, and provide guidance and recommendations to those crafting policy and public health interventions. The Project, including this research, has received ethics approval from the SFU Research Ethics Board.

This research will be carried out by research associate Alice Murage ( ) and the primary investigator Dr. Julia Smith ( who are based at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Informed consent information for participants