IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

The Notion of Ethnocultural Belonging in Rehabilitation Research and Intervention


In Canada, with its ageing labour force and low birth rate, government must rely on immigration to avoid negative population growth and meet industry’s labour force requirements. Immigrants and members of ethnocultural minorities reportedly have higher vulnerability for risks related to OHS and extended incapacity. However, very little is known about the dynamic underlying these more vulnerable groups, about how their living conditions change, about their state of health, and about the difficulties they may face during an episode of extended absence from work. Although the impact of workers’ ethnocultural belonging on the return-to-work process adds a layer of complexity to the factors already recognized in rehabilitation (determinants of incapacity and return to work), it has been studied relatively little in this context.

This summary of knowledge aims to identify and describe the themes that emerge from research works that have explored issues related to the influence of ethnocultural belonging on the rehabilitation and return-to-work process. A review of English- and French-language literature was performed on various search engines using a series of key words. Two blocks were created in order to encompass the broadest possible range of the problem: block 1, which includes literature on immigrant workers and OHS, and block 2, which includes empirical studies, reviews, and essays on the issue of ethnocultural belonging and rehabilitation. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were defined in order to circumscribe the selection of documents. A document quality evaluation grid was used to rate the documents’ scientific value. The content of the main search results was analyzed using a grounded theory-inspired approach.

Thirty-one documents (articles and reports) were retained for the purposes of this summary of knowledge. Several themes emerged from the content analysis. For block 1, the analysis of the literature reviews reveals seven main themes that cast light on the OHS-related problems encountered by immigrant workers: access to health care and a compensation plan; concentration in higher-risk industries; division of labour on an ethnic or racial basis; harassment and discrimination; lack of knowledge of laws and workers’ rights; and language and cultural barriers. In block 2, three main themes emerge. In order of importance, these are: culture and representations of pain (perceptions, attitudes, role of a third party in the therapeutic process, values, etc.); the intervention methods in the context of ethnocultural pluralism (criticism of the established models, recommended solutions); and the factors that enter into the cultural component (defining elements).
The reviewed studies deal mainly with the clinical dimension of the rehabilitation process (therapist–patient relationship). The role and experience of the partners (compensation system, employer, etc.) have been studied only a little. Avenues for research in this area are proposed.

Additional Information

Category: Literature review
Research Project: 0099-8430
Research Field: Occupational Rehabilitation
Online since: September 26, 2012
Format: Text