The Feminization of Migration (excerpt)

Excerpt from an article by Zuhal Yesilyurt Gündüz in Monthly Review; full article available to Questia subscribers

“Even though it’s paid well, you are sinking in the amount of your work It [is] also very depressing. The only thing you can do is give all your love to [the two-year-old American child]. In my absence from my children, the most I could do with my situation is give all my love to that Child.”

-Vicky Diaz, domestic care worker in Beverly Hills, who had to leave her children in her home country

“I’m living here in this hostel, and my classes are fine, but I can’t talk to my mother. I can’t tell her things. I can’t see her face. I can’t hug her My mother misses me, too. My mother will retire at some point, but how old will I be then?”

-Priya, Keralian (India) college student, whose mother works as a foreign domestic worker

Migration, Care, Care Drain, and Care Chains

The history of migration is as old as the history of humanity. Since the very beginnings humans have migrated to build a new, more hopeful existence somewhere else. Today migrants often break away from their home countries as a consequence of warfare, political repression, or severe poverty. Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller write that “migration has become a private solution to a public problem.” As political, economic, and structural keys to a narrowing of the global North-South gap are still missing, individuals “close the gap privately, by moving from South to North at great emotional cost.” Migrant labor is also of course associated with a myriad of other problems to which such workers are subjected.

Employers, recruiting agencies-as well as both sending and receiving states-profit from migrants’ hard work and contributions. For the sending countries, migration is a successful development and growth policy. It not only decreases unemployment rates, but also brings in remittances. Some states market the image of female migrants by praising them as “‘economic heroes’ who not only sacrifice themselves for their families but also for the nation.” Receiving countries, too, gain from the hard, but low-priced, work of migrants. These states are able to reduce labor shortages in sectors such as information technology or health and domestic care and provide upper-middle-class families the possibility of private child or elderly care as a kind of limited recompense for the shrinking welfare state. They also benefit from the brain drain of sending nations-the siphoning of highly educated professionals from their home countries, where they received their education, towards the economically developed countries. And of course by taking advantage of the availability of low-cost, migrant care workers, relatively privileged families in the rich countries are able to acquire a higher standard of living.

The astonishingly high number of women migrating is a new global trend. In the past it was mainly men who went to countries far away; women came as followers. In the last twenty years, however, this has changed so much that today over half of all migrants are women. Furthermore, female migrants have often become the main or single wage earners of their families. Saskia Sassen calls this the “féminisation of survival”-societies, governments, and states more and more depend on the work of women in the labor force. Thus the necessary conditions of work and survival fall increasingly on the shoulders of low-waged, deprived, and exploited migrant women.

Driving the “feminization of migration” are global social and demographic trends in developed countries such as aging populations in general and the elderly in specific, and the growing number of women in paid labor (over 50 percent overall, and close to 70 percent of women in some developed countries). This all contributes to the increasing demand for “care work”-in sectors like health, nursing, food service, hotels, housework, and care for children, elderly, or ill people. Care work-also called intimate labor-includes care and nursing of children, sick, or elderly people, as well as housework and housekeeping. …

from Questia (https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-3147550141/the-feminization-of-migration-care-and-the-new-emotional)

Female migration: Struggle and Challenges

Female migration: recalling past struggle, challenges for future

by Md Ansar Uddin Anas

Since its inception in 1976, international migration is playing an important role in the national economy of Bangladesh. Recent studies on migration have also captured the impact of migration on poverty alleviation and job creation in the rural Bangladesh. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) database, from the year of 1976 to December 2014, more than 9 million people had migrated overseas for work from which only 352,269 were female migrant workers, just 3.3% of the total flow.

What unfolded in Bangladesh in recent years is a gendered migration process: male migration in response to the requirements of industrialization (construction, manufacturing, agricultural sector like plantation), and female migration in response to the shortage of domestic and childcare workers with UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman as major destinations.

A significant share of female migration has been noticed since 2012 compared to male migration from Bangladesh. In 2014, a total of 76,007 female workers have gone abroad for work, which is almost 18% of the total international migration from Bangladesh. This scenario is quite common for this year as well, where more than 40,000 female workers already migrated in the first half of the running year. At times of banning, restriction and downward trend of male labour migration from Bangladesh, migration of these female workers are keeping the country so valid and alive in global migration movement with sending remittances on a regular basis.

But if we recall our past on female migration, it was not an easy walk.

In early 1981, a Presidential Order barred women workers of semi-skilled and unskilled categories from overseas employment on the ground to protect their dignity abroad. The order was in response to strong demand of the then association of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Kuwait for banning women from migrating. In 1988, government revised its position by replacing the ban with restriction on migration of unskilled and semi-skilled women. But then in late 1997, an almost complete ban was again imposed on migration of all categories of women except those who were highly qualified professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers.

This was greeted with massive opposition by various sections of civil society: women’s organizations, labour organizations, professional groups, chambers of commerce, think-tanks etc. They argued that it is unconstitutional and discriminatory against women, and claimed that it would contribute to trafficking of women. Since its establishment in 1995, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) lead by eminent migration expert and rights activist Dr. Tasneem Siddiqui struggled for opening up of female labour migration and safe migration processing for the female workers through its involvement in policy advocacy, research, involvement in global migration forum and close engagement with the Bangladesh government.

As a result, government lifted the ban on migration of all other categories of women workers, except domestic workers. In the year 2003 the ministry further eased the restriction by putting an age bar. Unskilled or semi-skilled women were allowed to migrate under special permission once they become 25 years of age.

The impact of above policy change was experienced straight away. Women constituted less than 1% of the annual labour flow since 1991 to 2003, increased to 5% of the total migrant labour force in 2005. It drastically increased from 2012 (13%) and now female labour migration is in its highest stage with contributing more than 18% of the total international labour flow.

Despite all these success, female migration is still stigmatized by the society. They are facing new challenges both at home and abroad. Despite their major contribution to the family, they are yet to give any visible space in family decision making according to latest findings by RMMRU.

Studies in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia show that compared to men, women migrant sent larger portion of their remittances. As majority of the female workers are domestic workers abroad, their food and lodging are mostly taken care of by their employers. They also do not feel secure to keep their earning in the destination country. Therefore they sent almost all of their earning to their home countries.

Remittances of female migrants helped many of their families to come out of poverty. RMMRU Studies on impact of migration found that more than half of female remittances were used for daily consumption, health care and children educations.

In absence of female migrants, remittance are usually utilised by the family. If migrants are married their remittances are used by their husbands and if they are unmarried, these are used by the parents or elder siblings.

Due to lack of opportunists as well as lack of information on available avenues for investment women migrants can hardly keep control over their remittances. However women developed their own mechanisms of saving for future during subsequent migration. Bank and Non bank financial institutions of Asian sending countries are yet to come up with gender sensitive investment opportunists.

Over the last 25 years, there has been little concerted effort to incorporate gender into theories of international migration. Yet, understanding gender is critical in the migration context. We are still in the paradigm of migration studies where people like to talk about migration that “modernized” women, emancipating them from their assumed traditional values and behaviors, rather avoiding their hardship and struggle abroad and their financial contribution in the national economy.

The role as a mother, as a wife and as a worker female migrants plays is always absent from the migration research and the tensions she bear with her while in abroad, never get recognition.

Women’s migration reflects how globalization has affected and reordered family life. By taking care of all things domestic, women migrants make it possible for local women to take up paid work outside the home.

Despite their contributions to their host countries, women migrants are not generally assured of basic protection. As part of the efforts of some countries to ensure that migration is temporary, women migrants cannot easily change employers, even if their conditions are far from satisfactory. Nor can they move to a different job outside of domestic work.

Also hidden from the picture are other costs that are shouldered by families in the countries of origin. Many sociologists observed that, as “servants of globalization,” women migrants, in turn, transfer their care giving responsibilities to other female family members or other less-privileged women in the countries of origin.

In the process, while migrant women contribute to making family life more comfortable and easier for their employers, they are separated from their own families, who have to fend for themselves. Bangladeshi society in general is still much interested to maintain a distance from these female workers, based on the social stigmatization which likes to project her experience on physical abuse or sexual harassment, ignoring her contribution and sacrifice.

Conventional migration studies in sending countries are still concentrated on social cost of female migration, where their economic contribution and idea of empowerment is almost absent.

Given these challenges of social recognition and confrontation with social stigma at home and physical safety and security challenges abroad, women migration is in a very vulnerable position right now in Bangladesh despite this upward graph.

At this cross road of migration movement in Bangladesh; migration experts, policy makers, activists and other stakeholders should come forward to fight against the social and academic injustice towards female migration and give full recognition about their contribution in social and national development pathways of Bangladesh.

from Migration News Bangladesh, IOM (http://migrationnewsbd.com/news/view/29939/2/Female-migration-recalling-past-struggle-challenges-for-future)

Migrant women workers increasingly unsafe

by Amrit Paudyal

Kathmandu, June 28: The need for equipping women heading for foreign employment with training on different skill sets for securing their profession and destination was emphasized on Sunday.

At an interaction organized jointly by Foreign Employment Promotion Board and Media Mobilization for Sustainable Development, the concerned stakeholders pointed out that majority of the women workers heading abroad were involved in domestic work and in the entertainment sector drawing increasing violence against them.

Board Director Shivaram Pokharel spoke of the preparations for launching various skill trainings for would-be women migrant workers in view of the possibility of more women heading abroad for employment in the aftermath of the massive earthquake.

On the occasion, Shova Kharel, a representative of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare said the human trafficking racket had become active in trying to allure women with various schemes so as to sell them. Kharel stressed the need for giving consultations to the women at various levels before they acquire passports.

Foreign Employment Promotion Board member and former entrepreneur Sita Devkota and Women’s Rights Forum Chairperson Srijana Pun underscored the urgency on part of the rights activists to stop the trend of traffickers alluring the women towards countries banned by the government and taking them there through a different country.

Media Mobilization for Sustainable Development Chair Neha Sharma said that of the total of 415 women that have returned from foreign employment, 86 were pregnant while more than 100 women were in prison in African countries and Dubai including other Middle Eastern countries. Sharma added that 41 women migrant workers had committed suicide.

At the programme, a documentary on the unwarranted sufferings of the women working in various countries was shown.

from DC Nepal (http://www.dcnepal.com/news/news.php?nid=156088)