Feminization of migration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Feminization of migration is a recent trend in which gendered patterns are changing and a higher rate of women are migrating for labor or marriage.[1] The percentage of female migrants world-wide has risen from 46.7 percent in 1960 to 49.6 percent as of 2005, according to United Nations statistics.[2] Research on the gender patterns of migration have increased substantially over the past several decades.[3][4] Some of the issues this research attends to are remittances and their economic impacts, family cohesion, racialization of migrants, human trafficking, gendered division of labor, and economic as well as educational opportunities.[4][5]

Migration as a Gendered Phenomenon[edit]

Previous statistical evidence on migration patterns have not often been classified by gender.[5] Only recently have gendered statistics on migration been made available. In 1998, the United Nations Population Division first released a set of estimates from 1965 to 1990 that separated male and female migrants.[5] An increase in available data on migration revealing gender has led not only to the understanding that women play a large role in migration,[5] but that migration itself is a gendered phenomenon.[4]

Influencing Factors[edit]

Numerous factors influence a woman’s decision to migrate. A partial list includes: financial distress, the prospect of financial gain, and hopes of preparing for the future; family dissolution, lack of direction and choice in the homeland, and to escape domestic constraints; in search of autonomy, and as a result of the social construction of prestige, achievement, adventure and fulfillment.[1]

A more recent shift in migration patterns relates to an increase in the migration of single women and partnered women who migrate without their families.[1] Due to stipulations present within contract-based employment, worker families are prevented from permanently settling and as a result, women are migrating alone.[1]

The Gendered Division of Labor[edit]

Much of the work made available to women migrants is gendered and concentrated in the entertainment industry, health services, and most of all in the domestic services.[1]

The gendered division of labor includes reproductive labor, which refers to work performed within the domestic or private sphere and which helps to sustain a household (e.g. cleaning, cooking, child care and rearing, etc.).[1] Reproductive labor enables paid, productive labor to take place.[1] Reproductive labor is typically performed by women and, as dominant gender discourses are threaded throughout labor ideologies, domestic work has historically been considered a "natural" part of a woman’s duties and identity.[1] As such, feminized labor has typically been considered "unskilled" and, thus, has gone unpaid.[1]

As noted by Filipino popular culture studies professor Roland Tolentino, when women migrate to perform domestic labor, "unpaid home labor in the domestic sphere becomes paid labor in international spaces."[1]

Shifts in Gender[edit]

For women in First World countries it is difficult for them to have a successful career along with a family. For families that can afford to outsource child care this success becomes a reality for the women of the household. Historically house work has fallen upon the women of the house, and with the pouring in of women from other countries, a large market for home/child care has been established. Migrant women, working as full-time nannies, filling in for women that work during the day create shifts in gender among all those within the home.[6] The absence of women in their home countries, moving to First World countries, creates a shift in gender roles of those in the Third World country as well.[7]

Scholars have observed that women leave Third World countries in order to find better paying jobs in which they take care of the home and children of First World families. As women leave their home countries they are also leaving their own families at home without a mother, or a mother figure, in order to fulfill the mother-role to someone else’s child. Both the mother and the nanny are both outsourcing child care to someone else―the mother to the nanny and the nanny to either her husband, one of her children, or a family relative. The First World mother gives up her time as mother by going to work and paying the nanny to take care and raise the child. The mother passes on her role as mother to the nanny. At the same time, the nanny is giving up her time with her children and passing on her role to another person back in her home country. And, when a woman migrates to a First World country, she is taking on the gender role of “breadwinner” of the family―a role that has traditionally been the role of the man in the family, yet the restructuring of the family and globalization have started changing this ideology of the man being the main financial caretaker of the family.[6][7]

In some situations the man left at home goes through a change in gender role as well. Those men within the familial unit are displaced as the “breadwinner” for their family―the migrant mothers take over this role when they leave for a First World country and send her earnings back home as remittances. The performance of this action leads to the emasculation of man―the role of the breadwinner is seen as a masculine role. The man is left with three options:

  • Take on the role of the women in her absence
  • Find a job of his own within the Third World country in order to still be seen as a financial contributor and still be considered a man
  • Reject the womanly role and continue to not provide to the family in relation to child care and house work.[7]

Scholars make note that the woman takes on the masculine role of breadwinner, making her the man in the relationship. The man (if he decides to take on the role of the women) becomes the woman in the relationship, taking on the feminine role at home until she returns home after years of work abroad.

Shifts in Love[edit]

Nannies leave their children back in the Third World countries, taking their love with them. The mothers (nannies) then need someone to love at the moment, therefore most usually giving their love to the closest children possible―the ones that they are nannies for.[6] The child that is being taken care of by the nanny is also lacking someone to love because his/her parents are working during the day, and depending on the exact situation it is hard to tell how much of a parenting role they take when they get home from work.

In many cases the children in turn love the person that is most like a parent to them; the person they spend most of their time with―their nanny.[6] Parents often get jealous of the nannies, however they are the ones who decided to have kids, the ones that decided to pursue working jobs, and those who decided to hire a nanny.[6] This often leads to the parents firing the nanny. Yet, most children have created a bond with their nanny, and they have come to assume that the nanny is going to be a part of their life for some time.[6] The firing of a nanny in some cases leave a child heart-broken and the nanny as well for she has treated this child as one of her own.[6]

From studies and personal stories of family members, scholars have noted that nannies transplant their love for their own children into the children in which they take care of. It is rare for the families of nannies to migrate to the First World with them. Also, nannies do not often get to return home to visit their children―in some cases, every two or three years. Nannies still try to stay in connection with their families, and the advancements of technology and communication have made this easier to do.[8]

Most all migrant mothers are seen as “here and there” at the same time―nurturing her children from another country . Physical love is not present within the transnational family . Mothers cannot nurture up close and the physical love is not allowed to be transferred from two different countries.[8] Cases have shown that many of the mothers transfer their physical love onto the children that they nanny.

Power Dynamics[edit]

Power shifts among those within the Third World families when the mother leaves the country to find better paying work. The breadwinner holds the power within the family unit because they are the one that provides the family with (the most) monetary assets. The reason mothers of Third World countries are leaving their homes is due to the lack of well-paying jobs within their country―not only for women, but for men as well.

It is easier for mothers to move to First World countries to find work due to the increase in the need of child care and household work. These jobs that the mothers are searching for are very well paid―much better than any job in Third World countries. The women are leaving home, working at well-paid jobs, sending their wages back to their families in the Third World countries in the form of remittances, therefore becoming the member of the family that holds the most power―the power that is traditionally seen as masculine power, and the highest power (based on cultural ideology) being held by the ‘man’ in the family.

Most fathers lose their masculine power and the children can gain more power if more responsibility is placed on them in the nonappearance of their mothers. The family should theoretically gain more power within their respected community due to the increase in wage earnings and newfound wealth due to the remittances sent by the mother―power in the sense of moving up of the social stratification [9][10]

The families that outsource child care and home work are in power of their hired nanny. Those that pay for a service hold most of the power in the employee-employer relationship. The mothers and fathers have power over the nanny’s day-to-day schedule, along with her employment and pay (Zdravomyslova, 218). The employers determine if the nanny is suitable for the job and if she can be trusted to occupy a place in their house and oversee the care of their child and house. They are allowed to set up cameras inside the house in order to watch the nanny’s actions and the care their child is receiving.

Employers can also be in communication with their nanny at any time during the day, allocating jobs for the nanny to do.[11] The employers decide when the nanny works and does not work, the labor that the nanny is responsible for, when the nanny is allowed to return home, and the overall stability of the nanny’s job. Power is defined as control over the one that is hired in the sense of the employer-employee relationship between parents and their nannies [11]

All nannies hold power in the employee-employer relationship. The nanny is in control of the child and its health and security, and she is the manager of the household while the employers are away. This allows the nanny to have say in the conditions of her contract with the family.[11] Most nannies and the children under their care, after time, create bonds and become attached to one another. Some nannies use this attachment against the parents if their employment is at stake―parents not wanting to take away a stable relationship from their child, limiting the risk of abandonment issues present in the child, and the feeling of guilt felt by the parents.[12]

Gender and Women Migration in Sri Lanka[edit]

Women leaving their homes in Sri Lanka in order to work as domestic servants in the Middle East has become common. This migration forces those in the villages of Sri Lanka to create new gender norms and ideals[disambiguation needed], yet going against cultural ideology.

A few men reluctantly take over the work of women in their absence, and when possible, pawn this work off to female relatives. Reconstruction of gender roles occurs, creating uncomfortable situations for the men of the communities.[7] Men have the chance to take on different roles of which they themselves choose:

  • Drinking in order to maintain a masculine identity and showcase wealth
  • Find work
  • Take on the work of the women

In Sri Lankan communities drinking of alcohol is seen as a masculine activity. Unemployed and underemployed men take to drinking in order to still be seen as masculine and to protect their identities within the social sphere of the community. Drinking is also a sign of wealth. Creation of male groups comes out of drinking―a group of men that wish to still be seen as masculine and instead show laziness and unwillingness to provide. Men that drink spend much of their wives’ remittances, making her migration of little use financially to their families.[7]

Some men find work of their own in, and outside, of the communities. These men do not give up their entire role of breadwinner; yet earn less than their migrant wives. This man is still seen as taking on a masculine role and is still considered a ‘man’.[7]

Very few men take on the work of the women by taking care of the house, the preparation of food, and the care of the children. These men are looked down upon as ‘not-men’ therefore making them look as ‘women.’ This work comes with the loss of the prestige of being a ‘man’ and doing ‘men’s work.’ This job is not paid and the men that do this job are not breadwinners. These men are taking on responsibility, unlike those that drink and do not work and only spend remittance money. However, they are seen as ‘not-men’ by others within the community. With the ability to be humbled and take on responsibility in order to provide, in other ways than the earning of money, these men are still looked down upon as failing to be a ‘man’.[7]

Racialization of Migrant Workers[edit]

Migrant workers are racialized via discursive and material avenues in three primary ways:[1]

  • through policy regulations,
  • in their recruitment and representation, and
  • via interactions with employers and the larger community

Discursive and material processes of racialization influence representations of migrant workers, the venues and methods used to recruit them, and the conditions under which they will be expected to work.[1]

Migration within East Asia[edit]

Since the 1970s, economic growth in East Asia has spurred workers to migrate from poorer Southeast Asian countries, like the Philippines and Indonesia, to wealthy but typically crowded nations and areas, like Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, in the search for employment.[1] As a result of globalization, women are migrating in increasing numbers and entering the domestic services, a phenomenon which scholars refer to as "the global nanny chain" or "the international division of reproductive labor".[1]

Not all migratory flows come from poorer regions, however. In the Philippines, for example, flows often come from more developed regions.[1] Thailand has seen an increase in feminized migration from higher classes as well. Once practiced exclusively by the wealthy elite, the 1960s marked a time when middle-class Sino-Thai families began to increasingly send daughters overseas in pursuit of higher education.[13]


Some theorists assert that migration flows from Third World to First World nations occur as a result of First World imperialism which has depleted natural resources, and increased debt and poverty in the Third World.[14] First World financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, require borrowing countries to follow contracted regulations detailed in structural adjustment programs (SAPs), and these programs hinder the sovereignty of poorer nations because they control governments’ use and allocation of loaned funds and include stipulations which require government to reduce State provisions of social services.[14] As noted by Grace Chang, imperialism extracts "land, products, labor, and lives."[14] She illuminates an alternative perspective on migration in which First World imperialism "forces many people in the Third World to migrate to follow their countries’ wealth."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Lan, Pei-Chia. Global Cinderellas: Migrant Domestics and Newly Rich Employers in Taiwan. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2006. Print.
  2. ^ Morrison, Schiff & Sjöblom (2008): The International Migration of Women. Washington: The World Bank. Page 2
  3. ^ Gender, Remittances and Development. Feminization of Migration 2007. Working paper 1 for United Nations Instraw. Page 2
  4. ^ a b c Donato, K. M., Gabaccia, D., Holdaway, J., Manalansan, M. and Pessar, P. R. (2006), A Glass Half Full? Gender in Migration Studies. International Migration Review, 40: 3–26. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7379.2006.00001.x
  5. ^ a b c d Zlotnik, Hania. The Global Dimensions of Female Migration. Migration Information Source. Mar. 2003. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display.cfm?ID=109>.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Cheever, Susan. "The Nanny Dilemma." Global Women: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York City: Metropolitan /Henry Holt and, 2002. 31-38. Print.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Gamburd, Michele. "Breadwinner No More." Global Women: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York City: Metropolitan /Henry Holt and, 2002. 190-206. Print.
  8. ^ a b Parrenas, Rhacel. "Long Distance Intimacy: Class, Gender and Intergenerational Relations between Mothers and Children in Filipino Transnational Families." Global Networks. 5.4 (2005): 317-336. Print.
  9. ^ Walkerdine, Valerie. "Reclassifying Upward Mobility: Femininity And The Neo-Liberal Subject Correspondence : Valerie Walkerdine, Centre For Critical Psychology, University Of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia." Gender & Education 15.3 (2003): 237-248. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.
  10. ^ Stark, Oded, and Robert E. B. Lucas. "Migration, Remittances, and the Family." Economic Development and Cultural Change 36.3 (April 1988): 465-81. The University of Chicago Press. JSTOR. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1153807>.
  11. ^ a b c Zdravomyslova, Elena. "Working Mothers and Nannies: Commercialization of Childcare and Modifications in the Gender Contract (A Sociological Essay)." Anthropology of East Europe Review [Online], 28.2 (2010): 200-225. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.
  12. ^ Baquedano-López, Patricia, Ph.D. "A Stop at the End of the Bus Line: Nannies, Children, and the Language of Care." Working Paper No. 51 (May 2002): 1-23. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <https://workfamily.sas.upenn.edu/sites/workfamily.sas.upenn.edu/files/imported/new/berkeley/papers/51.pdf>.
  13. ^ Wilson, Ara. The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City. Berkeley: University of California, 2004. Print. Pages 42-43
  14. ^ a b c d Chang, Grace. Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000. Print.