Why focus on women’s migration? As daily news stories and scholars from diverse disciplines make clear, the age of migration continues unabated (Castles and Miller 2009). Total migration has steadily increased, and statistics highlight the ongoing feminization of migratory flows, particularly among migrants settling in Europe and North America (Zlotnik 2003). Nearly half (49.6%) of all international migrants are now women (UNFPA 2006: 21). However, women’s migration is still a topic that remains peripheral to theories of migration. In its 2006 annual report, the United Nations Population Fund noted, ‘if international migration has remained on the periphery of global policymaking until recently, the issue of migrant women has received even less attention’ (UNFPA 2006: 21). The three volumes reviewed here address this theoretical gap, engaging with the burgeoning work on women’s migration, the rights of women migrant workers, and care labor. Over the last three decades, research has increasingly incorporated gender as a vital analytical lens through which to understand migration. Early studies explored the ‘gendered geographies of power’ (Pessar and Mahler 2003) that facilitate migration, shape everyday realities of migratory labor, and impact the relationships that migrants have with family, friends, and employers (see, for example, Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994; Pedraza 1991; Pessar 1986). These new volumes draw upon and update foundational research in the field, while positing critical new directions. Each of the collections approaches women’s migration from a different line of inquiry, and together the volumes offer the reader a multidisciplinary panorama of current approaches to women’s migration. The Anderson and Shutes (2014) volume, Migration and Care Labour: Theory, Policy and Politics, provides a balanced mix of theory, policy, and case studies, affording both breadth and nuance to a critical appraisal of current discussions of care labor. The volume is framed by important theoretical reconceptualizations authored by researchers who were fundamental in the initial push to analyze women’s migration and transnational domestic labor (see, for example, the Williams, Anderson, and Parreñas contributions). The remainder of the volume pairs grounded case studies with more structural legal and policy discussions (epitomized by the Mundlak and Shamir contribution). Guided by an emphasis that challenges the boundaries that have developed around analyses of care labor, this volume provides those unfamiliar with the issues of women’s migration and care labor a concise yet thorough overview of the field. In their collection, Migrant Domestic Workers and Family Life: International Perspectives, Kontos and Bonifacio (2015) address an undertheorized research question, exploring women’s right to their own family relationships when living as in-home caretakers. Labor rights, citizenship rights, and gender-based human rights have all received attention and are present in current debates about migration. The authors argue that the right to family has not received the attention that it merits, and that it is often posited as contrary to women’s rights. While framed broadly under the banner of rights, the Kontos and Bonifacio volume does much more than focus on policy and law. Through 15 finely-related case studies, the authors detail the many different articulations and experiences of being a transnational family member while working as a live-in caregiver, providing readers with multiple illustrations of the most salient debates surrounding live-in domestic labor. The Meghani volume, Women Migrant Workers: Ethical, Political and Legal Problems, brings together work analyzing the limited rights many migrants experience, paying particular attention to gender, class, race, and ethnicity. This collection argues for the fair treatment of women migrant workers, and provides specific examples of the ethical, legal, and political problems that women migrant workers encounter. The contributors employ a multifaceted approach, advocating for migrant rights, women’s rights, and labor rights. The cases presented in this work explore the state-based, international, and transnational intersection of these rights with the particular ways in which vulnerability is produced in migration. In contrast to the other volumes and consistent with the authors’ strong stance toward migrant rights, each contributor makes explicit policy recommendations to address the structural inequalities that women migrant workers face. The pairing of structural analysis of bureaucratic failings of law and policy with practical recommendations positions this volume as particularly of interest to policy makers and organizations that advocate for migrant rights. Contextualizing women’s migration These three volumes look explicitly at women migrant workers, and thus, the contributors all contextualize women’s migration within larger structures that encourage migration as an economic strategy. Discussions of migrant labor are framed by ‘the recognition of both macro-economical global forces and micro care relations, along with the policies and social and political networks that lace them together’ (Anderson and Shutes 2014: 12). Even as a migration systems approach has shifted the analytical focus to bring together the macro and micro frameworks, push and pull factors still resonate with efforts to understand the structures that enable or hinder certain migratory flows. More limited employment opportunities, relatively lower wages, and greater levels of poverty are often noted in countries of origin. These economic forces provide the context in which individuals and families decide how to best meet basic needs as well as plan for future investments, such as education, healthcare, and social security. Social and cultural perceptions of migration in origin countries also influence the decision about whether or not to migrate. Additionally, the increasing gap in wages in origin and destination countries and the growing disparities in standards of living provide economic incentives for migration. Finally, gendered shifts in northern labor markets also constitute a pull factor for women migrants as an increasing number of women in North America, Europe, and East Asia take on employment outside the household. In areas where familial and state resources have not sufficiently addressed increasing entry of women into the labor market, the demand for care work has also increased. These macroeconomic shifts provide vital context to the experiences of migration that are profiled in these volumes. Migration and migrant labor is often analyzed in relation to neoliberal policies, regulations, and ideology. The three volumes situate migration within ongoing neoliberal shifts, with the Meghani volume emphasizing the role of neoliberal reforms in amplifying the economic push and pull factors. In discussing care labor Meghani (p. 6) argues that neoliberal policies encourage states to see care work as the responsibility of individual families rather than a societal obligation. The implementation of such policies is often realized through weak government support for education, social welfare programs, and health care. As they send remittances, migrants become sources of foreign revenue that help adjust for trade imbalances and can be used as collateral when nations attempt to borrow funds from international lenders (Rosewarne chapter in Meghani volume). The case studies presented here trace how state policies craft migrants as the ideal neoliberal employee, epitomizing flexible labor (Ong 2006). For example, the restrictions on family reunification wrought by immigration and labor policies ensure that live-in domestic workers are free to attend to their employers’ families precisely because their own families cannot make claims on their time and attention (Kontos and Bonifacio 2015). In this way, domestic laborers are imagined and produced as always available. This arrangement benefits both their employers as well as the states involved—one reaps the benefits of remittances and the other is free to mobilize national labor in non-care related employment. These macro-level considerations frame the individual experiences and household strategies that many of the case studies profile. Care labor Expansion of women’s migration is often linked to domestic labor (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001; Parreñas 2001; Oishi 2005; Constable 2007; Lutz 2008). In light of growing international demand for child and senior care givers and the ongoing entry of women in developed nations into the professional labor market, domestic labor markets often look toward global labor pools to fill positions. As households in wealthier nations seek inexpensive domestic labor, migrants often become ‘servants of globalization’ (Parreñas 2001), reproducing gender and racial inequalities internationally. Responding to the ‘crisis of care’ (Zimmerman et al. 2006) characterized by the growing demand for domestic labor, migrant laborers often leave their children and families in their countries of origin in order to fulfill other families’ needs for care. These migratory flows create ‘global care chains’ (Hochschild 2001), linking employers’ and employees’ care needs and strategies. Additionally, women’s migration results in experiences of ‘care drain’ in countries of origin, presenting challenges to social reproduction and obstacles to sending nations’ efforts to embrace migration-as-development paradigms (see the Badusu and Michel contribution and the Pérez Orozco chapter, both in the Meghani volume). By tracing the links and relationships in global care chains, exploring how the global economy of care is articulated on local levels becomes a fruitful point of analysis (Parreñas 2005). These collections directly engage this project, bringing together case studies exploring local articulations of care labor and their larger implications. One way in which these case studies expand research on migrant domestic labor is by analyzing the marketization, familialization, and defamilialization of care labor. The Anderson and Shutes volume posits the marketization and familialization of care work as simultaneous and dialectical processes. The Williams chapter argues that care labor is a ‘fictitious commodity’ that has been marketized such that migrant domestic laborers now perform work that displaces what was hidden reproductive forces not considered waged labor. Even as care labor becomes part of the waged labor market, domestic labor is often subject to a familial logic given that the work occurs in private homes and often consists of tasks which were previously undertaken by family members. The case studies presented in these volumes trace some of the contradictions in rights and responsibilities that arise from the concurrent marketization and familialization of care labor. The Kontos and Bonifacio volume adds an additional lens through the discussion of defamilialization, or the ‘policies promoting the independence of women/families from care tasks’ (Kontos and Bonifacio 2015: 7). Defamilialization plays out in many ways, from the extended childcare supported by public institutions to visa programs facilitating the entry of migrant domestic laborers into household positions, to the arrangements that migrant women make to cover the care labor of the families and households they leave behind in their countries of origin. Kontos and Bonifacio are quick to point out that it is the familial logic of live-in care work that necessitates the defamilialization of the care worker, with immigration law only secondarily hindering family reunification. States recognize the need for care labor by awarding legal status and work permits to migrant domestic workers. However, the legal status, policy, and social and cultural attitudes often frame that work precisely as familial—thus constructing care workers in precarious ways, such that labor rights might not apply. All three volumes speak to the enduring and prevalent notion constructing domestic workers as ‘one of the family’ (Young 1987; Anderson 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). Both a metaphor and a strategic relationship of fictive kin, the notion that workers living in their employers’ households and fulfilling care labor are part of the family challenges ideas about care provisioning, and what is imagined as constituting waged labor. Early work on the family trope explored how relationships and boundaries were crafted in households employing a domestic laborer. While excluded from full family memberships, domestic laborers were often on the receiving end of maternalistic relationships, in which they were expected to learn from and heed the woman of the household (Young 1987; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). These familial lenses have been heavily critiqued both as a strategy to restrict the rights of workers and as a way in which the gendered division of household labor becomes further naturalized. Continuing from foundational critiques of discourses of ‘one of the family’ relationships (Young 1987; Anderson 2000; Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001), these volumes use this paradigm to advance new questions about care provisioning, family roles, and migrant labor. Contributions in all three volumes fruitfully interrogate the idea of how a ‘quasi family member’ (Parreñas, in Anderson and Shutes 2015: p. 50) is legally articulated. For example, in the case of au pairs in Denmark (Parreñas in the Anderson and Shutes volume) and Norway (Bikova in the Kontos and Bonifacio volume), migrant care laborers’ legal residency is tied to the family who employs them, thus hindering the ability of migrants to change jobs. This legal status, coupled with the ongoing societal construction of domestic workers as ‘one of the family’ or under ‘contract for cultural exchange’ bears consequences in the care workers’ daily lives through the justification of lower wages and the solicitation of unpaid labor—because as family, domestic laborers should work out of affection for the family members without asking for additional compensation. Furthermore, the ‘one of the family’ notion continues to further the ‘culture of maternalism’ (Parreñas, p. 62) which impacts the efforts of women to enter the labor market, whether they are migrant care workers or women leaving their children in the care of others—both feel the effect of an enduring association of reproductive care as the purview of women. These volumes explore care labor through specific cases in order to address larger social, economic, legal, and political questions: Is household work viewed as a legitimate purview of waged labor or as a family responsibility? How does the way care labor is perceived impact domestic workers and their rights? What is the state’s role or interest in assuming the responsibilities of care through its support for day care centers, institutions for senior citizens, or subsidies for family members who take care of a dependent? In addressing these broad questions about women’s migration and care labor, Williams adds an important coda, ‘balancing work and care in developed and developing countries is a global issue that requires global policy strategies’ (in Anderson and Shutes 2015: 27). Looking ahead The three volumes reviewed here thoroughly assess the state of research on women migrants, analyze current case studies, and propose new avenues for thinking through the structural factors that shape women’s migration and the impact of macro processes on the everyday experiences of women migrants. The primary contribution of the Anderson and Shutes volume is the emphasis on rethinking the boundaries of care work. The volume clearly attends to ‘the connection between paid and unpaid care work; the connections between different types of care work and other sectors of the labour market; and the connection between immigration and employment’ (p.213). Adding to these connections, the Walsum and Alpes chapter and the Guevarra contribution also elaborate ties between the sending and receiving nations, further contributing to the editors’ call to recognize and interrogate connections. While Anderson and Shutes outline the goal of critically envisioning connections, in the process, the contributors also fruitfully problematize the traditional divides that have tended to limit the ways researchers have approached these topics. For example, in envisioning paid and unpaid care work as linked, the authors are able to ask the question: How do understandings of gendered household roles dialectically produce the experiences of both domestic laborers and the women who employ them? In interrogating the connection between professionalized care administered in an institutional setting and the care offered in a private home, the authors are able to pose the questions: What defines care labor? What is involved in the production of professional versions of care? And how are the understandings of care shaped by how institutions, families, and gender are articulated? Contributions in the other volumes also productively take up Anderson and Shutes’ call to explore these central connections. For example, the Um chapter in the Kontos and Bonifacio volume illustrates how the ‘one of the family’ metaphor has moved from private to institutional settings, suggesting the strength with which care labor is associated with kinship and intimate relationships. Um’s work bears implications for the legal rights of care workers in all settings, and furthers the challenge of defining care labor as ‘waged labor.’ Many opportunities remain for further emphasizing connections and relationships between analytical frames that have long been described in binary terms. Building on Anderson and Shutes’ framework of connections offers other potentially fruitful possibilities for thinking beyond siloed distinctions and for continuing to develop analytical work on the topic. In analyzing the role of gender on migration, few researchers have followed up on Hondagneu-Sotelo’s call that ‘gender is an analytical tool equally relevant to our understanding of men’s migration as it is to our understanding of women’s migration’ (1999: 2–3). Exploring the connections between the migration and migratory choices of men and women (Boyd and Greico 2003) still offers room for further elaboration and the potential to enable a more nuanced understanding of gendered flows within broader migratory frameworks. Additionally, the impacts of women’s movements from origin to destination countries and back again could be further explored. In this vein, the strong contributions from Badasu and Michel detailing how the absence of migrant domestic workers’ from their families in Ghana inhibits Ghana’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and from Pérez Orozco exploring how global care chains re-articulate inequality in care provisioning facing families of migrant worker in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (both chapters in the Meghani 2016 volume) demonstrate productive avenues for investigating the personal and structural ties between origin and destination countries. One final area due consideration is that of migration from nations in the so-called global south to other nations within the same region. These works compellingly discuss women’s migration, albeit almost exclusively within the framework of flows from south to north. This is an important and necessary focus, given that south to north flows represent approximately 35%–45% of migration worldwide (IOM 2013: 55), and account for 56% of all remittances (IOM 2013: 72). However, migratory flows between nations understood as part of the global south also represent an economically and demographically important consideration. Estimated to account for 34%–41% of all migrants (IOM 2013: 55), these flows continue to present a ‘blind spot’ for policy makers and for researchers (IOM 2013: 36). These volumes included only a few examples dealing with south to south migration. Notably, the Kontos and Bonifacio volume included the most diverse case studies, with contributions on migration to Dubai (Lausch), Argentina (Recalde), South Korea (Um), and Lebanon (Pande). It is important that analyses of women’s migration are not confined to destination countries deemed ‘wealthy liberal democracies’ (Meghani 2016). Framing studies in this way fails to fully problematize easy generalizations about the characteristics of countries of origin and settlement, produces the erasure of diversity within nations, and obscures the varied strategies that migrants employ throughout the world to address their needs. As new research trajectories on women’s migration and care labor continue to develop, it is important to continue to challenge constructed boundaries, whether theoretical, topical, geographical, or disciplinary, seeking out the most inclusive perspectives on global migratory flows. References Anderson B. ( 2000 ) Doing the Dirty Work: The Global Politics of Domestic Labor . London : Zed Books . Anderson, B. and Shutes, I. (2015) Migration and Care Labour: Theory, Policy and Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Boyd M. , Greico E. ( 2003 ) Women and Migration: Incorporating Gender into International Migration Theory . Geneva : Migration Policy Institute . 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For Permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Migration Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 28, 2017
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