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Globalization and the increase in transnational care work: The flip side

I argue that to understand the reality of who is (or is not) accessing care globally, we must examine the flip side of the flows of women migrating transnationally to perform caring labor. The flip side includes the levels of care the migrants
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  Globalization and the Increase in Transnational Care Work:The Flip Side JEAN L. PYLE University of Massachusetts Lowell and Center for Women and Work, USA A BSTRACT  I argue that to understand the reality of who is (or is not) accessing care globally,we must examine the flip side of the flows of women migrating transnationally to perform caringlabor. The flip side includes the levels of care the migrants experience and that attained by their  families in their absence. Most migrants endure a care deficit, working in physically and emotionally stressful situations where they encounter many forms of discrimination. Their  families may be better off economically, but not emotionally. I examine the role of the state, pointing out that many governments face a double bind—needing women to migrate for economic reasons but not wanting citizens abused abroad or the accompanying adverse publicity. I critique several government responses to this dilemma and conclude by assessingrecent international initiatives to address migration problems, suggesting they lack  perspective on how globalization influences women’s migration. My focus in this article is on the relationship of the recent period of globalization with flows of transnational caring labor, looking specifically at who is (or is not) receiving care. 1 This issuehas distinctly gendered dimensions and complicated inequities that also involve class, age,national srcin, sexual orientation, race / ethnicity and culture. It has economic, political,social, ethical and moral aspects and implications. It is a critical matter for all involved: the indi-viduals migrating to provide caring labor, their families, the households and institutions in whichthey work, and both sending and receiving countries. Caring labor—and who does or does notreceive it—is also an essential concern for sustainable human development. As a chapter entitled‘The Invisible Heart—Care and the Global Economy’ in the United Nations DevelopmentProgram’s (UNDP)  Human Development Report 1999  points out: Studiesofglobalizationanditsimpactonpeoplefocusonincomes,employment,educationandotheropportunities. Less visible, and often neglected, is the impact on care and caring labour —the task of providing for dependants, for children, the sick, the elderly and (do not forget) all the rest of us Correspondence Address : Email: Jean_Pyle@uml.edu1474-7731 Print = 1474-774X Online / 06 = 030297–19 # 2006 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080 = 14747730600869995 Globalizations September 2006, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 297–315  exhausted from the demands of daily life. Human development is nourished not only by expandingincomes, schooling, health, empowerment and a clean environment but also by care. And theessence of care is in the human bonds that it creates and supplies. Care, sometimes referred to associal reproduction, is also essential for economic sustainability. (UNDP, 1999, p. 77) Typically, women from lower income regions or countries provide domestic services,childcare, and health-care services to households in higher income areas. It is, however, notnecessarily the lowest income women from the sending countries who migrate. For example,many Filipinas migrating for domestic or childcare work are considered middle class in thePhilippines (Parren˜as, 2002a; Ehrenreich and Hochschild, 2002, p. 10). They are often well-educated and speak English (Lan, 2003a, p. 529b; Cheng, 2004a). Some are mothers who leavetheir own children in the care of others for extended periods of time, forming global carechains (Hochschild, 2000a, b; ILO, 2004a, p. 58). Their families become transnational familiesand their parenting must occur across national borders (Asis  et al. , 2004; Parren˜as, 2001a).Although many women migrate voluntarily for caring labor after considering their limitedoptions at home, some women and girls are trafficked for domestic jobs (ILO, 2003c; US Depart-ment of State, 2005). Trafficking occurs not only when women are physically forced to migratebut also when they migrate voluntarily, based upon recruiters’ deceptions, into unforeseenexploitation (United Nations, 2000). 2 Governments often encourage workers to migrate for employment—particularly lowerincome developing countries, often with large debt burdens, who count on female migrants tosend remittances home. Women are a valuable ‘labor export’ since research indicates theyremit more money than men (Blue, 2004, pp. 65–66 passim; Connell and Brown, 1995,2004; Samarasinghe, 1998, p. 310).There is an extensive literature on domestic workers, focusing chiefly on Asia, the UnitedStates, and Western Europe. Research documents the pervasiveness of the transnational flowsof domestic workers and the perceived positive and negative aspects of migration (Pyle,‘Introduction’, this symposium). Other studies examine the often low wage levels andadverse working / living conditions. There are policy analyses that seek to develop strategiesto improve the situation of these workers (Heyzer and Wee, 1994; Piper and Ball, 2001; Villalba,2002; ILO 2003a, b, c, 2004a; IOM, 2003, 2005).Some scholars explore how female transnational domestic workers reconstitute theiridentities and their relationships to their own families and establish themselves distinctlyfrom their employers (Asis  et al ., 2004; Lan, 2003a, b; Yeoh and Huang, 2000; Barber,2000; Cheng, 2004a). Some focus on how immigration alters gender relations betweenwomen and men (Menjı´var, 1999). Others reveal the problems these women encounterwhen they return to their country of origin (Constable, 1999; Siddiqui, 2003, p. 7;Surtees, 2003).In addition, some examine the representation of female domestic workers in sending andreceiving countries. They have been stereotyped as heroes or victims (Santos, 2002; Gibson et al. , 2001), as ‘others’ who are inferior (ILO, 2003b, pp. 16–17; Cheng, 2004b), asimmoral (Chin, 1997; Chang and Groves, 2000), as a drain on society (Chang, 2000), and ascommodities (Tyner, 1994, p. 606; Chin, 1998, 1997, p. 378). Representations are often usedby a country in marketing its workers for employment in other countries (Tyner, 1996,p. 410) or by receiving country brokers who channel women into different labor market seg-ments by nationality (Loveband, 2004). They are also a means to control the options workersface and deny them their due rights (Chin, 1997, p. 356). 298  J. L. Pyle  Much research reveals the immigrants’ range of reactions to the situations in which they findthemselves—showing that these workers, although on the disadvantaged side of unequal powerrelations, have varying degrees of agency and creatively resist the many constraints of their situ-ations (Constable, 1997; Yeoh and Huang, 1998; Gamburd, 2000; Barber, 2000; Chang andGroves, 2000; Lan, 2003a, b; Cheng, 2004a).The different aspects of social reality explored in these wideningliteratures on workers are all-important for understanding transnational caring labor. It is only within the last decade,however, that multi-level approaches to understanding the political economy of transnationalmigration for such work have been explored (Heyzer and Wee, 1994; Pyle, 2001; Pyle andWard, 2003; Parren˜as, 2001a, c; Misra  et al. , this symposium; Oishi, 2005).Furthermore, no overarching analysis of the relationship of globalization to who  is  or  is not  receiving care has been undertaken. In this article, I initiate this project. I examine the flipside of the increased flow of transnational caring labor into higher income areas. At the sametime women migrate to provide caring labor, there are deficiencies in the levels of care theyand their families obtain—a care deficit. 3 They work and live in the antithesis of a caringenvironment. This can undermine health, violate human rights and dignity, and undercut possi-bilities for sustainable development.In the next two sections, I examine the dual aspects of the flip side. First, I provide anoverview of the research on the working and living conditions of transnational migrant careworkers (domestic workers and health-care workers), showing the care deficit that mostencounter. Given that the literature on domestic workers is substantial and space is limited,I focus mainly on female domestic workers migrating from Asian countries. Second, I surveyresearch on the experiences of their families—looking at the economic and psychologicalaspects of the care that family members receive when women emigrate. In the third section,I examine the double bind that many national governments encounter as they seek to balancethe advantages of having women emigrate with the need to counter the adverse conditions themigrants may encounter. I examine several different approaches to female migration, rangingfrom relatively open to very restrictive migration and critique governments’ ways of addressingthe issue of abuse of migrating women. In the last section, I outline the initiatives at theinternational level begun since 2000 to address the problems migrant workers face. I pointout that what is missing in these approaches is an understanding of how forces of globalizationand the international power structure have shaped migrant flows—the actual numbers and theirgender, class, and other demographic characteristics. The Flip Side: Female Transnational Workers —What Care do they Receive? Economic issues are a primary reason for women workers to emigrate (Villalba, 2002; Oishi,2005, p. 8). Women typically earn a wage abroad that exceeds their alternatives at home.Others leave to escape oppressive home situations and feel empowered. Some view migrationas an opportunity to see more of the world and meet people from other cultures (ILO, 2004a,p. 18; Oishi, 2005, p. 18).These benefits notwithstanding, there is, however, wide evidence that many transnational careworkers find themselves in situations where others possess most of the power, leaving themlimited grounds to negotiate the terms of their employment and existence (ILO, 2003b).They face wide-ranging problems that affect their mental and physical health, eroding theirwell-being. They work and often live in environments that diminish their opportunities for ahealthful existence. There are countless examples of how they strive to improve their Symposium: The Increase in Transnational Care Work   299  circumstances, but it is difficult to make substantial gains. In short, the level of care they experi-ence in their own lives is often seriously deficient.What women migrating for caring labor experience and the actions they take in response arecomplex and shaped by many dimensions of social reality, including the particular economic,social, political, legal, and cultural conditions of the receiving countries. For example,women srcinating from the same country encounter similarities and differences across hostcountries. On one level, Parren˜as (2001c) found that Filipina domestic workers in the differentcontexts of Los Angeles and Rome experienced similar problems—painful separation from theirfamilies, reduced occupational status, alienation and social exclusion from host communities,and quasi-citizenship. On a more micro-level, Filipinas had better protections in Hong Kongthan in Singapore although the latter is considered somewhat more democratic (Bell, 2001,p. 207; Buckman and Saywell, 2004). Not surprisingly, they preferred working in Hong Kong(where they had a guaranteed minimum wage, a government drafted employment contract,more statutory holidays, some maternity leave, and publicly approved places to meet). But,their experiences also differed within Hong Kong, depending on whether they worked inChinese or Western households. They believed Western employers offered better work environ-ments with more equal treatment and personal space (Cheung and Mok, 1998). Nurses alsoexperienced sharply different circumstances. Ball (2004) compared Filipina nurses’ access toinstitutionalized ways of raising concerns (at the workplace or societal levels) in SaudiArabia and the US, finding much less recourse in Saudi Arabia.  Multiple Types of Workplace Discrimination Discrimination affects health and well-being and is therefore a major factor in the levels of care people experience in their lives. Women migrating transnationally for caring labor canexperience multiple forms of discrimination 4 —based on ethnicity, race, nationality, class,religion, perceived morality, gender, or because they are undocumented or traffickedworkers (ILO, 2003a, b). Instead of building bridges across nations, migration can reinforceand augment many forms of inequality (Cheng, 2004a; Ehrenreich and Hochschild, 2002).For example, Ball (2004, p. 130) documented how Filipina nurses in Saudi Arabia are mul-tiply disadvantaged: as foreign nationals, as women, and as females in occupations that crosstaboos of touching between unmarried members of opposite sexes. To resist, they move toother countries for work once they gain some experience in transnational employment inSaudi Arabia.In terms of ethnicity, Gamburd (1999) described how local agencies placing Sri Lankanwomen abroad charged higher fees for Sinhala women than Muslim women. Hierarchiesbased on race and nationality disadvantage certain people. For example, Indonesian womenin Taiwan are channeled into the more demanding jobs (caring for the very sick and elderly),while the Filipinas receive the easier domestic positions (Loveband, 2004). Filipina domesticworkers in Singapore received one or two days off a month, Sri Lankans one or none, andIndonesian domestic workers none (Yeoh and Huang, 1998, p. 588). 5 Some workers wereable to counteract this by individually negotiating time away from their employers’ households.DiCicco-Bloom (2004) found that nurses from Kerala, India working in the US believed racismwas the reason they did not get the pay, job opportunities, and promotions they felt they hadearned. McNeil-Walsh (2004) reported nurses of the racial minority may be assigned less desir-able shifts and have more limited access to training and promotion opportunities than those of the racial majority. Immigrant nurses in the US and Saudi Arabia often felt talked down to by 300  J. L. Pyle  patients, colleagues, and people at large—and were reprimanded in circumstances that wouldnot result in criticism of a white colleague (Ball, 2004). Although workers are often acutelyaware of these injustices, their vulnerability makes them reluctant to report them.Class differences between employer and employee can be reinforced by either maternalism(the female employer intruding on workers’ personal lives or disclosing her personal life tothe domestic worker) or the creation of a more distant hierarchical relationship. Both cancontrol and demean the domestic worker. Although in the less powerful position, workers caninfluence the employer–employee boundary by refusing to share details of their personallives (Lan, 2003a, b).Oishi (2005, pp. 50, 53) reminds us that employers may seek domestic employees of the samereligion. Arab households prefer Muslim domestic workers, even though those of other faithsmay be readily available, because they do not want their children exposed to different valuesystems. Discourse has also centered on the morality and sexuality of the domestic workers.Responses and resistance of groups of transnational migrants vary. For example, some Filipinaschallenged the portrayal of them as prostitutes by establishing organizations with ethical rulesfor domestic workers’ behavior, thus hiding sexuality; others flaunted their sexuality to mock the accusers (Chang and Groves, 2000).Gender is, however, a major basis upon which discrimination occurs, often overlappingthese other forms of discrimination. In most countries, cultural and traditional attitudesdevalue women and restrict their economic and political rights, their social and culturalroles, and their opportunities for education and access to information and resources (ILO,2003a). Gendered hierarchies exist (Wee and Sim, 2004). Transnational women domesticworkers typically have few occupational choices in the gender stratified labor markets,limited mobility (if any) between employers, and often must live at their workplace. Accordingto the International Labour Organization (ILO), nurses who migrate also encounter manyforms of discrimination, but typically less than domestic workers (ILO, 2003b, p. 31). Theymay face various barriers to entry to a country—regarding approval of their qualifications,registration and licensing, fees for registration, language tests, and recruitment practices(Bach, 2003; Hawthorne, 2001).Although women often migrate because the wages promised abroad are higher than what theycould earn at home, nevertheless many receive relatively low pay for the hours worked and findtheir wages withheld for months (Lim and Oishi, 1996, p. 5; Yeoh  et al. , 1999; Surtees, 2003;Buckman and Saywell, 2004). Recruitment agencies, arguing that they must recoup the costs of placing the women abroad, often garnish wages for the first few months on the job (Perlez,2004). Wage hierarchies exist (ILO, 2004a, p. 59). Gender, race, and nationality interact inways that disadvantage many. Female domestic workers from countries such as Indonesia,Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, for example, earn less than Filipinas in Singapore and HongKong (Buckman and Saywell, 2004; Oishi, 2005, pp. 50–51). Women have begun resisting.Wee and Sim (2004, p. 182) describe how Filipinas in Hong Kong have more power to negotiatewith employers for several reasons—many have networks of family and friends alreadyemployed there, numbers of Filipino-dominated NGOs have been established in Hong Kong,and many of them have cell phones, facilitating workers organizing themselves. In addition, Fili-pina nurses in the US have challenged discrimination in wages or work assignments by filinglawsuits under US equal employment law (Ball, 2004, p. 130).Although women receive wages exceeding those they could earn at home, they often take jobsof lower status than the occupations for which they trained (Piper, 2005, pp. 7–9). This is com-monly the case for Filipinas who become domestic workers. Moving lower in the occupational Symposium: The Increase in Transnational Care Work   301
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