Migrant women in the third world and gender ideology

be Jeawon Moon

Imagine you are a career woman who has a family in a first world country. If you struggle to persist with working and housework together, it is really easy to find a cheap maid or nanny service with a click of the mouse. There are a lot of maids and nannies in the first world who are migrant women from the third world.

The growing crisis of care in the first country has increased demand for caring service especially caused by women’s advancement in the society. The migrant women workers are an invisible power to sustain the economic participation of women and global cities in the first world.

Above this, there are two more factors influencing the significant increase of the migrant women workers. The third world has faced serious polarization of wealth and devastated economies due to global capitalism. The migrant women workers are considered as the way to revive the economy at the national level. Lastly, they decide to migrate to gain better economic opportunities for themselves and their family.

Let’s think about the gender ideology involved with this trend of migration. Does the trend have a positive influence on developing gender egalitarian views on society? At first, the answer looks like yes. Even though it is hard to ignore the structural factors forcing third world women to migrate, it is also an important fact that they decide to migrate autonomously, unlike previously when many migration women were tied movers.

Also, the migration of women workers challenges traditional gender portrayals that woman takes care of housework and child caring and man is the breadwinner. They decide to migrate for their poor family and become the main breadwinner. They have even played an important role in national economy. In other words, it seems that society is moving towards gender equality.

However, there are some doubts that the migration challenges traditional gender roles. It may actually solidify them. In truth, much of the work for the migrant women is limited to reproductive labor, which refers to caring work to sustain households. Typically, reproductive labor has been considered a woman’s duty and identity. They fill the blank of traditional roles in the houses of the first world since women of the first world do not want to take the roles because of their work.

Also, because women leave their families to go to the first world, there will be the blank of caring in their families, which will be filled with another woman of the third world who is too poor to migrate to other countries or by female relatives. In this global care chain, there is an almost complete lack of man’s role to care for a family after the woman has migrated.

Especially in the Philippines, the government and media condemn migrant mothers with concerns that they are causing a family break-up. Although the economy has been sustained by remittances from migrant workers, they shift the responsibility of family crisis only to migrant mothers and insist that return is the only solution.

The trend of migration illustrates that both career women of the first world and migrant women workers of the third world have an unfair social status compared to that of men. Even though more and more women are entering the workforce in the first world, they are still considered as the main player of housework. So, they would like to hire migrant women workers to do caring work instead of them. In the third world, migrant women workers’ absence is filled with other women. This contradictory, unfair gender ideology dominates current global society.

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One thought on “Migrant women in the third world and gender ideology

  1. Pingback: Echoes of female transnational migration: Care-giving jobs in Korea | JAPANsociology

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