Hostess workers in Japan – illegal sex work or deserving a visa?

Hostess bars and clubs in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho

by Kyle Waylyszyn

The women who work as hostess workers work just like you and me, but their jobs come with a heavy stigma that surrounds their line of work. When you hear “hostess worker” or hear about them, they are never portrayed in a very positive light. The job description of a hostess, if you don’t know, is to entertain their male customers by doing things like talking, drinking, dancing and other things. Of course, there are some places that offer services greater than what the majority will not do, which is more sexual in nature, but this isn’t the norm.

Sociologist Rhacel Parreñas

The norm is that these women choose to take these jobs of their own free will, although sometimes out of necessity when giving the choice to either stay in their home country and make a far less salary or work as a hostess. Rhacel Parreñas has conducted firsthand research about this topic, and Parreñas says “No one lied to them and explicitly told them that they would only be singing and dancing on stage.” “They were quite adamant,” Parreñas says, “that they weren’t prostitutes.” Rather, she describes the work of hostessing as “commercial flirtation” through which women work to “bolster the masculinity” of their customers. They typically make money for the club owners to whom their labor is contracted by selling men drinks, not sexual acts.”

Even though that these women took these jobs of their own accord, the Japanese government was not pleased with being ranked the highest employers of “sex trade” workers as they were publicized as. In 2004, the Japanese government began changed the visa laws and enforced stricter requirements for the entertainers visa. This caused these women to lose the valuable income need to support their families, but the important numbers the government seen was that the hostess workers dropped down to only approximately 8,607 in 2006 from the 2004 statistic of 82,741 workers.

In light of the action things that go on and the willingness of these women should there be an entertainer’s visa specifically for hostess workers? These women have a right to make a living just like every other human on this planet, so why can’t they work as a hostess legally in a country that seems to have a demand for it? The morality of these jobs maybe the most prominent reason seeing as it doesn’t just involve the person that attends these places, but also the country that allows such unmoral and socially awkward things to happen as a legal business. Think about it would you choose a country to visit that just legalized commercial flirtation, if the stigma that everyone truly though about it was that it is actually houses of ill repute?

Reference

Parreñas, Rhacel. The ‘indentured mobility’ of migrant Filipina hostesses  http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/‘indentured-mobility’-migrant-filipina-hostesses

The Care Crisis and Role of Gender in the Philippines

Anonymous student post

I once saw this website that catered to parents looking for child minders. What fascinated me the most was the fact that most of them specifically asked for a Filipina. After seeing this, I did not know whether we Filipinos were seen as very good carers, or whether hiring Filipinas as opposed to non-Filipinos was cheaper.

I know my mother was one before and like the people interviewed by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, my mother left me while I was still young to work abroad. Reading the extract from Parreñas’s book, I can relate to everyone’s experiences; however, I mostly identified myself with Ellen who despite the lack of a motherly figure in her life turned out to be fine. It wasn’t easy for our family, but I never felt any sense of abandonment from my mother. Of course, as Parreñas mentions, not everyone is an Ellen and I do agree with that. I’ve met countless of people like me who were also left to the care of others by their parents at a young age to work abroad, and like Jeek in Parreñas’s book, they experienced emotional insecurity.

The lack of a mother figure in the family is seen as the cause of emotional insecurity because mothers are seen as the one who is in charge of child rearing. What I found intriguing the most in Parreñas’ work was how the Philippine government blames these migrant mothers for this “crisis of care” and even called for their return home.

I recently read an article by WEF about how the Philippines are 9th in the world in gender equality. Growing up in the Philippines, I can say that compared to other countries like Japan we definitely are more gender-equal. Women fare better in education and literacy, it’s also quite common to for women to hold top positions in the workplace and they also hold political positions.

On the other hand, we’re not fully gender-equal.Women are still being blamed for rape and infidelity.There still exist this idea of women having the traditional domestic role. Child rearing is still seen as a mother’s responsibility and not both parents’. Even if both parents are working, the mother is expected to take care of the children.

Relating this to what Parreñas wrote, the Philippine government pointing fingers at migrant mothers reflects how the Philippines still has this gender ideology that a “woman’s rightful place is in the home”. Instead of casting the blame to these women who are not only helping their families but also the economy, shouldn’t the government do their part first?

In the first place, these mothers only left either because there were no jobs available for them or their wages weren’t enough to sustain the family. These are issues that should be answered by the government and not caused by being a “bad mother”. Instead of asking migrant mothers to return, the government should give support to the children who were left behind.They could give support in their education or even providing some means of communication for transnational families. Maybe in that way we can eradicate the idea of stay-at-home mothers is the model of a good mother.

As I mentioned before, there is gender equality in the Philippines but there still a lot of work that needs to be done to be a fully gender equal country.

Why Everyone Can’t Be Equal

English: Vector derivative of File:Gini Coeffi...

English: Vector derivative of File:Gini Coefficient World CIA Report 2009.png Based on https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

Companies that outsource work abroad allow people in the lower classes from more affluent countries to live beyond their means. Such as a middle class family that chooses to bring a maid from the Philippines versus hiring a maid from a company in their own country. Most people like bargains yet they don’t think about the consequences of a cheaper price. Migrant workers who are willing to work for less pressure the wages to decrease or remain the same. Corporations such as Walmart import a large amount of their goods from China and they also pressure manufactures to lower their prices.

A problem with many countries is that they support exporting their citizens to bring money home from overseas, yet when a foreign company arrives with its own workers it causes issues. Also the Philippines encouraged its female population to work abroad, but then they decided to contradict themselves by discouraging mothers from working abroad. High unemployment rates in certain areas causes discrimination against foreign migrant workers in that the ‘natives’ may not be able to find work and thus the foreign migrant workers are the scapegoat because many illegal immigrants have tainted their image.

The main issue is that the jobs do not pay sufficiently and that respect of persons and laws prevent people from obtaining available work. That reason causes people to migrate abroad for higher paying opportunities and even then migrant workers are mostly contract workers and contract workers don’t receive benefits.

The majority of exported workers from the Philippines are female. They leave as contract workers who can only begin to make a profit once they’ve paid off their contract. The affluent families in Europe and the Middle East tend to hire foreign maids as the laws are lax on the treatment of foreign workers and as such many Filipina caretakers experience abuse at the hands of their employers, especially in the Middle East.

In Japan many Filipina women work as hostesses. Also these women make enough money from working abroad that they can send gifts and money and in some cases hire a caregiver to take care of their family at home. Japan is reluctant in considering a hostess visa due to Japan’s nationalistic mirage of being a moral country.

Also the Dagongmei from China; the female working population who come from rural areas are treated poorly on the job. They work many hours for a very low wage yet that wage is high enough for them to send money home. Their work in the factory is temporal as the majority have plans to return home.

Besides engendering work enables men to be exempt from working as nannies and nurturing their children. Also many female migrant workers from Mexico and the Philippines tend to be more highly educated than the male migrant worker population, but low-paid jobs have pressured them to seek work abroad. Also countries that have a high export of female migrant workers tend to have a high unemployment rate among males.

Poor people in the US, specifically those who receive welfare and government aid cost the middle-class and lower a substantial amount of tax dollars. Companies such as Walmart that pay low wages tend to have many if not most of its workers receiving government benefits because they do not earn enough. Even with large tax breaks such companies would rather have tax payers fund the welfare programs. According to many economic analysts raising the minimum wage would decrease the number of available jobs. Also with an increased wage prices would also increase which would cause customers to complain.

Equality is necessary, just as inequality is, but for different reasons. Income inequality is important in order for capitalism to work, yet too much inequality is adverse to economic growth, as is too little. Also socialism is not truly equal in that it removes rights by silencing people. Besides a burger flipper should not earn the same wages as a doctor. Where equality is necessary is in women’s rights and in ending unlawful discrimination of people for various reasons.

References

2009. “Filipino Maids in Mideast Jobs Say They Face Abuse.” Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=130055

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Hochschild, eds. 2003. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New EconomyNew York: New York Metropolitan.

Hasanov, Fuad, and Oded Izraeli. 2012. “How Much Inequality Is Necessary for Growth?” Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2012/01/how-much-inequality-is-necessary-for-growth/ar/1

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Ngai, Pun. Becoming Dagongmei: Subject, Gender and Power in a Global Workplace.

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2003. “The Care Crisis in the Philippines: Children and Transnational Families in the New Global Economy,” pp. 39-54, in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. New York: New York Metropolitan.

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2011. Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Pennington, Maura. 2013. “To Fix Income Inequality, the Have-Nots Must Become the Do Somethings.” Forbes.com http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurapennington/2013/03/08/to-fix-income-inequality-the-have-nots-must-become-the-do-somethings/

Standing, Guy. 2011. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Train, Amy. 2012. “NOT Made in America: Top 10 Ways Walmart Destroys US Manufacturing Jobs.” Demos.org. http://www.demos.org/publication/not-made-america-top-10-ways-walmart-destroys-us-manufacturing-jobs

Worstall, Tim. 2014. “Fantastical Nonsense About WalMart, The Waltons And $7.8 Billion In Tax Breaks.” Forbes.com. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/04/14/phantastical-nonsense-about-walmart-the-waltons-and-7-8-billion-in-tax-breaks/

Ydstie, John. 2014. “The Merits of Income Inequality: What’s the Right Amount?” NPR.org. http://www.npr.org/2014/05/18/313137739/the-merits-of-income-inequality-whats-the-right-amount

Care a Commodity in Crisis

Anonymous student post

Earlier this semester we talked about the migrant work that women were doing and how it has led to the care crisis we see today; these women have, although out of necessity, chosen to work as caregivers to other people’s children.

The first factor that plays a big role in this accepting shift toward the adoption of imported care is the modernization of the first worlds, in my opinion. We as a society are always looking for a more efficient or easier way to do the things we need to do, and it is only “natural” that this search leaks into our personal lives. When was the last time you wanted to get up from that chair you’re in and manually look up how to do something; It takes time to look-up the needed information in a book compared to using the fast and easy-to-use super computer that’s laying at your side everyday in your pocket; well not so long ago that was the standard way and the only way. This hunt for the efficient way in connection with the modern cost of living means either both parents have to work to sustain a family or a single mother or father might have to work over time to do the same. This shift in society structure leads to the need for a caregiver, someone that can be there all the time, simplify the workload, and decrease the stress of having two jobs, parent and employee.

The second and third factors that play a big role is the demand for these migrant workers is both the families looking for help, and by the workers themselves who want to earn a better wage. These women make far more working for other people’s families then if they were to work in the Philippines. These two factors of demand are the reasons why “some 34-50% of Filipino population is sustained by remittance from migrant workers” (RhacelParrenas).  As for the employers, parents either together or single, want and need the time to step back in this day and age, and it’s an easily possible thing to obtain with the help of a migrant caregiver who is willing to literally raise your child and help with everything; Not only that, but they work for a decently cheap wage in comparison to hiring a nanny or babysitter from the home country. That wage, although small, trickles down the economic system and completes a support chain that is crucial to the lives of everyone connected to it because of the mass adoption to this demand.  The parent who employees need the cheap family support, the migrant workers need the money to help their families back home, and in the grand scale of things, both the economy need both parties of the transaction working to contribute to there local workforce and economy.

Lastly, like in classes we talked about, we know this is a problem, but is it the lesser of two evils or should we try to find a way to shift these women’s work back towards their home countries somehow? There is no easy solution to adjusting a whole country’s economic dependence of a portion of the population that needs the money and no way to shift the current sociological wants of the societies from these supporting counties hiring these women. Can we sit back and watch the trend fade or will this out sourcing care in the exchange of the lost care of another’s continue.

Now, at any time did you think does that migrant worker have a family or a child? Yes, a lot of them do, does it make a difference if you only know one side of the story? Just like the lack of information on the other child, the other child lacks far more. He or she lacks a connection that I can’t make palpable in any amount of words. They see their mother on very rare occasions and live their lives with little to no knowledge of a mother’s care; whereas other child get the care of their birth mother and basically a second mom.  I know that in my heart that this changes everything, I feel the ache of thinking about my life without my mother. She was my heart, my haven, and the person I could always talk to. What can I do though in this great big world for someone so far away? Well I propose we don’t forget; that we remember the others and maybe a shift can happen in the future.

Reference

Parreñas, Rhacel. 2003. “The care crisis in the Philippines: children and transnational families in the new global economy.” Pp. 39-54 in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild. New York: New York Metropolitan.  http://www.academia.edu/490445/The_care_crisis_in_the_Philippines_children_and_transnational_families_in_the_new_global_economy

The Worldwide Abuse of Women

English: American women's earnings by educatio...

English: American women’s earnings by educational attainment, from Women in America (2011) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Olivia Katherine Parker

As an American-born woman, I have a choice. I have a choice to my career, who I marry, whether or not I raise children, and how I spend my future. Women in other countries are not as fortunate. In class, we discussed a few of these cases. For example, Filipino maids face abuse from their employers. Chinese women move to Beijing in order to temporarily escape marriage and to find work in factories that pay low rates. Migrant workers in Japan’s hostess bars have pay withheld from them. Furthermore, mothers from Sri Lanka who need to raise money to feed their children move thousands of miles away to do so. Even in a developed country known as an economic superpower, Japanese husbands oftentimes regard their wives as the domestic half – an idea that was common in American society in the 1950’s. That is not to say that America is the perfect place for women; the Caucasian woman only earns 70 cents to her male Caucasian coworker’s dollar. On top of that, women in America also face prejudice when they decide to live childfree lives or focus on their careers. This boils down to a thought: are women being taken advantage of in a global sense?

It was not long ago that, universally, men were the breadwinners and women were the caretakers. Why is it that in extreme poverty it is the mother who leaves her children behind to earn money for the family? Where are the husbands? Why aren’t they moving thousands of miles away to earn money and why are they allowing their wives to go to such lengths to care for their children?

In class we discussed that human trafficking and sex work are rampant in Japan’s night life. We focused on research by Rhacel Parreñas, who explained that male employers pressured female employees to perform sexual acts in return for money (the definition of prostitution). Parreñas also stated that if an employee was in Japan on an expired visa or any other less-than-legal terms, her pay was almost always withheld at least once.

Recently, we have been seeing a new trend in Japan where fathers are becoming more involved in the early years of their children’s lives. After speaking with several Japanese students I learned that it was common for their fathers to be absent from the home. It wasn’t manly to be seen with their children! After working long hours they would go to the bar and return home late in the night to eat dinner, watch TV, and go to sleep. Now, Japan has laws that allow fathers to take time off work to care for their newborn babies and we are seeing Japanese fathers take on the responsibilities that normally only the wives would have. Still, this is a new trend and it may be looked down upon by old and new generations alike.

Overall, we see a unified theme of women being taken advantage of, whether it is in a domestic setting or the work place. Of course, the severity ranges by location, and the idea that everything is the male’s fault is flawed. Still, the tired belief that women belong in the home needs to change and it is, slowly. Ultimately, we could see a shift in responsibilities between men and women.

The links between migration, trafficking, and slavery

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010

Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Alonso Meraz

There are many migrant workers who go to a different country to work and make money and send it home. Some do difficult jobs, but many are choosing to do those jobs in order to make money. But what if someone is being forced to work against their will? What if someone was sent to a different country and forced to do some kind of work that they don’t want to do? Well that is called human trafficking.

Human trafficking can be defined as the trading of people for forced labor, sex slaves, and commercial sexual slavery. Trafficked people are forced into forced labor such as prostitution, sexual pornography, or hard physical labor with little to no pay. Human trafficking can happen to people of either gender and even children. It often occurs in developing countries, but also occurs in developed countries as well. Often people are kidnapped and transported to other countries, and they can also be traded within their own country. According to the organization called “Do something” it is estimated that a slave costs $90.

And there are approximately 30 million slaves who were trafficked on earth today. The human trafficking industry is the third largest crime industry in the world, and can make a profit of $32 billion dollars a year. Many slaves are kidnapped, or tricked and deceived into slave work. Many women are promised a good job, and benefits. Some are offered an education, or something better than the life they are living now. But once they are taken and realize what kind of work they must do, it is difficult and dangerous to escape. They are lied to, and are forced into becoming slaves. Run away teens, homeless, drug addicts, tourists and people living in poverty are common victims of human trafficking.

It is sad to think that such a thing is occurring in the world today. These people are having their lives, their freedom, and rights stolen from them. They have no choice but to obey their owners. Woman are forced to have sex, and perform sexual acts for their owners. And children are forced to work long hours for their owners. Most slaves have no way out, and don’t know how to escape. They may have no where to go, or fear being punished by their owners. Many of them even join the criminal organization and help bring in new slaves in fear that they might be punished if they disobey their owner.

The question is why are these human trafficking organizations still around today?? Why hasn’t anyone put a stop to them? Well there actually are many organizations who are fighting and trying to stop human trafficking. Organizations like, The IOM (International Organization for Migration), are trying to save trafficked humans and put an end to it. There needs to be more awareness of what is going on in the world, and people need to understand the dangers that are out there, and understand how to keep their guard up and recognize human traffickers. I think the more awareness that is raised the less likely it is for someone to be traded into human trafficking.

The Consequences of Being a Migrant Hostess in Japan

English: Host and hostess clubs in Ginza (Plac...

English: Host and hostess clubs in Ginza (Place – Ginza-7-Chōme) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Luke Kariniemi

In class we have been speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of Filipino women migrating to Japan and working there as “hostesses”, the experiences they have, and how Japan as a country deals with the perceived image these hostesses create.

Many Filipino women migrant to Japan to work as a hostess for a variety of reasons. Mainly, they migrate for the large increase in wages compared to what they could receive in their home country. They are paid to entertain male clients, pouring their drinks, offering flirtatious comments, singing karaoke and sometimes dancing. Many of the women enjoy doing this work and often see themselves as professional singers or dancers. The higher wages they receive from doing this can be sent back home to help support their families better than if they had stayed working in their domestic country.

However, there are many downsides to working as a hostess too. As Rhacel Salazar Parreñas says in her book Illicit Flirtations, “sexual harassment is the norm in hostess work”. Hostesses have to bear the harassment for however long the client has paid for. In many cases, this can be seen as male superiority. Men basically pay hostesses to compliment them and to have the ability to choose which girl they want, dismissing the less attractive ones. Essentially, ‘fluffing’ up the men’s ego. This can be soul-destroying for women and many of them would not be able to put up with being so insulted, let alone sexually harassed.

All of these problems can escalate very quickly when it comes to the world of migrant hostesses. Usually, a Filipino women with an ‘entertainer’ visa gets the job as a hostess through a ‘middleman broker’—similar to hiring agencies in western countries, apart from the fact that once they get a job for the woman in a specific club, the woman then ‘owes’ them a debt for doing so. This stops them from quitting their job before the contract with the middleman expires, because they will often be penalised if they do so. This can lead to them doing jobs that they do not want to perform, often including sexual acts, because they cannot quit. Hostesses become vulnerable to human rights violations because they end up depending on their sponsoring employers.

When the U.S. State Department labelled around 80,000 Filipina hostesses as “trafficked persons” in 2004, thinking that they were suffering forced prostitution, the Japanese government imposed new restrictions on the entertainer visa, believing that it would help the women be rid of the ‘hostess’ title. Although it did just that, lowering the number of Filipina hostesses in Japan by 90%, it may not have been for the best after all. When all of these women were sent back to their home country, they also went back to a much lower wage and therefore couldn’t care for their family as they could when working in Japan as a hostess. For a lot of them, their skill sets would only include things that the hostess job involved, and so there’s a chance they would end up going into prostitution which would have been a lot rougher in impoverished countries like the Philippines. Altogether, Japan managed to get rid of the image that other countries perceived it to be concerning the so called “trafficked persons”. Nevertheless, when in fact these women were not being illegally trafficked into Japan, but going through their own free will, the consequences may not be that great after all.

Do as the Romans Do, Turn the Other Way My Dear We are in The East

by Sarah Aartila

From the many mangas about the pure girl, if she were judged according to western philosophy on the case of chastity she would be described as a ‘slut’. The Western philosophy praises individualism, straightforwardness and linear logic, unlike Eastern philosophy which believes in a circular logic with both sides given equal due, and collectivism which sees what is best for the group as a whole. It is true that trafficking is an issue, but what can be done when poor countries have an ever increasing population and a shrinking of available jobs?

Throughout the world women have been and still are considered second class citizens whose only worth is to be a commodity. From the dagongmei in China who toil away to make home better in the factory via honest work, to the foreign hostesses of Japan who freely or sometimes unwillingly offer extra services. These women have freely left home and while many do it for individualistic reasons, most still send money home. Not all hostesses are trafficked nor are all of them illegal aliens (Parreñas 2011). The returning migrant worker comes home a hero. They are pressured like peers by the bar into getting requests. Requests come via promised sex. Some are forced yet they are not the majority like Noini who was forced into prostitution, yet Noini returned again for hostess work. According to Noini:

“We return from Japan with lots of presents and (are) well-dressed. We are the dream of any girl who wants to help her family. I could never tell a Filipino what I told you. They would consider me the lowest possible person in the world. I could not face that. Everyone here pretends” (Schmetzer 1991).

These women sacrifice themselves for the greater good of making the lives of their families at home better. To them being a hostess is better than being a nanny in a middle eastern country where they have a greater potential to be beaten. The salary of £30 an hour offers more buying power than a professional job (Quinn 2012). Besides such pay is fuelled by the many companies who pick up the tab for their salarymen. Many claim that the reason for such clubs is due to Japanese males who fear rejection from Japanese women and that Japanese men look down on all other asians. Also many Japanese people do not like the idea of Filipino women taking care of their elderly. Besides these views justify the right of these men to harass women on the job.

In order to improve the lives of these workers laws Parreñas suggests that laws should be created to protect such women from sexual harassment. These women shouldn’t even be considered as migrant workers, but rather as contract workers or indentured servants as many now can’t enter without the rigorous training required of those entering with an entertainment visa. What was originally intended to eliminate trafficking; the strict regulations for an entertainment visa has caused more to become contract workers. Perhaps the West is meddling too far into the East, trying to press Western morality into an Eastern mindset.

In the end these women are faring way better than their at home counterparts and are helping their country. No one may feel proud about such work as they keep it a secret from home, but even with the Western morality that has been pressed onto the Philippines Eastern morality still seems to prevail overall.

References

Schmetzer, U. (1991, November 20). Filipina Girls Awaken To A Nightmare. Chicago Tribune, 1-2. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-11-20/news/9104150088_1_recruiter-japan-filipina/2

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2011. Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Quinn, S. (2012, September 10). The grim truth about life as a Japanese hostess. The Telegraph. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9524899/The-grim-truth-about-life-as-a-Japanese-hostess.html

Progress and Subjugation

Trafficking of women, children and men

Trafficking of women, children and men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Michael McDonnell

The introduction to the 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report notes, “The common denominator of trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for profit. A victim can be subjected to labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, or both”. In Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, Rhacel Parreñas explains the identification of the majority of Filipino women working as hostesses in Japan as victims of trafficking, and how the clampdown in visa sponsorship that resulted has in fact been detrimental to their freedom overall. According to Parreñas, the women she encountered who came to Japan to work, came of their own free will and many already knew what to expect from having spoken to women who have previously made the journey. They enter Japan with legitimate entertainer visas and employers willing to sponsor them.

She states that rather it is the restrictive conditions of these visas that make women more susceptible to forced labour and exploitation. For example, in order to be granted a permanent spouses visa, the applicant has to remain married to a Japanese citizen for five years creating a situation where the wife is indebted to the husband. If an employer asks a worker to do a job she is not comfortable with for whatever reason she cannot leave the job without becoming an undocumented illegal worker, becoming reliant on an employer to provide both work and protection from being found out. These unbalanced relationships are, according to Parreñas, what increase the likelihood of forced labour and abuse, not the position as a Hostess itself.

This exploitation of vulnerable workers exists all around the globe. In Bangladesh, workers, more than 85% of whom are female, in clothing factories many making goods on behalf of international sportswear companies are still paid below the minimum wage, are forced to work overtime, and are sometimes verbally and physically abused. Attempts to protest or strike are met with police brutality. Their dependence on this money to support their families prevents them from leaving.

HK Victoria Park Philipino Migrant Workers

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The anti-poverty charity War on Want, who are involved in ending the exploitation of Bangladeshi workers in the clothing industry, advise against boycotts of the goods produced in these factories as it could lead to job losses for the people they are trying to protect. War on Want are instead pushing for a change in the practices of these sportswear companies and the guarantee of improved pay and conditions for the workers.

The labeling of migrant workers from the Philippines as victims of trafficking by TIP led to a 90% drop in women being sponsored to work in the hostess industry further reducing their options for advancement. The answer to this problem is not to crack down on the employment of foreign workers in this industry but, much like in the case of the Bangladesh, to improve the conditions for the workers. By giving more control to the women working in the hostess industry to choose their own employers and to change jobs if they want the likelihood of exploitation would be greatly reduced.

References

Parreñas, Rhacel. 2011. Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

War on Want. (2012). Race to the Bottom. Available: http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/Race%20to%20the%20Bottom.pdf

Migration and the Philippines

Anonymous student post

Recently we read an article by Rhacel Parreñas and her experience working as a hostess in Japan. When I hear migration and the Philippines the first few things that come to my mind are nurses, domestic helpers or construction workers in the Middle East. Growing up in the Philippines I used to hear a lot of stories about working “that kind” of job in Japan. Although I think nowadays it’s very rare for Filipinas to leave the country and work as entertainers in Japan. Instead, they study nursing in the Philippines and apply for nursing positions in the US or elsewhere. Some end up working as caregivers. Filipina domestic helpers are quite common in places such as Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and some European countries.

Although it may seem that the Philippines is a very poor country with little opportunity for people to provide better a life for their family the reality is a bit different. Indeed we are a third world country, but that does not mean that every single Filipino is poor. There are jobs especially for those with college degrees and those who are desperate for work end up in call centres. Whether you are a professional or a call centre agent, wages are enough to provide for your families. A lot of Filipinos often believed that working abroad would gain them more money. True, however they only think that they can gain money because the exchange rate between currencies is high and fail to realise that they work in countries with a much higher cost of living and that their wages are enough to cover for their living expenses. So they end up exactly in the same situation as they where when working in the Philippines.

So then why do we leave our country? For some Filipinos, especially those who did not finish school, they do not see these opportunities, think that there is no chance of earning money in the Philippines and only see migration as the answer for a better life.

Personally I think the reason is a lot more than that. It’s because of bad governance and corruption from the government.There’s very little care from the government that we receive that some us are forced to migrate. Even though there are jobs as I mentioned there are some benefits such as healthcare that are not properly provided by the government. The fact that there is little support from the government is a reason why Filipinas from poor families in particular are forced to work as domestic helpers and endure the harsh working conditions and abuse of their employers. Wealth distribution is not fair – the rich get richer while the poor remain poor. If the distribution of wealth is fair and equal and there is good governance, then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for Filipinos to leave.

Reference

Illicit Flirtation: Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo, by Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. 2011. Stanford University Press.