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.

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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

Immigration, gender structures and their present roles

Cover of "Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, a...

Cover via Amazon

by Ludvig Bergman

Men have since way back dominated over women with authoritative power, remnants of that might still have some effects on the relationship between the contemporary “equal” men and women in our global contemporary society. Global Woman by Ehrenreich and Hochschild describes how women from third world countries move to developed contries to do “women’s work” with hopes of a higher salary to provide for her family in her home country. Even though this method in many cases secure the financial problems, it also contributes to splitting up families, mothers leaving their underage children without the nurture and care they need.

This shows how third world citizens now take on the role of the traditional suppressed woman in developed countries where the women, due to becoming more “equal” to the breadwinning men, no longer have time to attend such matters as upbringing and childcare. The gender norms expect women to take care of the home and the children while the man should support the family and work long hours.

In the Swedish modern society where I grew up, this might no longer be the case. Men and women more and more split the parental leave between them to give each other the oppurtunity to spend time with the child as well as not loose to much days off from work because of the new addition to the family. The issue comes first when the parental leave is over and the child old is enough to no longer need constant attention from it’s parents. When both of the parents return to work, who is now supposed to take on the traditional role of the mother? This is where the immigrant nannies come into the picture. Nannies whose care for their own children gets neglected to help maintain the gender roles of the developed west.

The salary gap between men and women are in contemporary times static. Unlike past times where men were considered to be the sole breadwinners of the family, in contemporary times that no longer applies. With men no longer being the only breadwinners of the family, services such as daycare and kindergarden allows women to have a family alongside with having a career.

Maatz describes in her Forbes article “The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Pay Gap” how full-time working women in the U.S for the last decade have had median earnings equivalent to 77% of men’s earnings. That such a big difference actually exists in our modern society shows, in my opinion, how either unmotivated any change must be or how uneducated people must be of the current situation. This doesn’t only affect women’s financial status over time but have immediate consequenses regarding issues such as repayment of student loans. Women pay the same tuitions and have the same student loans as their comparative male students. The result of this financial unequality is, according to the article, women already from the beginning being financially behind men in a race where they most commonly cannot ever catch up.

References

The Awful Truth Behind The Gender Payment Gap by Lisa M. Maatz http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeswomanfiles/2014/04/07/the-awful-truth-of-the-gender-pay-gap-it-gets-worse-as-women-age/

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Hochschild. eds. 2004. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Holt and Company.

Women on the move, but can’t men do domestic labour too?

English: Domestic worker in Colombia Nederland...

English: Domestic worker in Colombia Nederlands: Huishoudster in Colombia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lisbeth Damsbo Lyngs

Women in the 21st century are on the move as never before, as labour migration has become a response to demands created in mostly America and Europe. As women in these areas of the world have increasingly joined men in working outside of the home, less time has been left to do the the traditional housework labour, such as taking care of the children. Women from poorer countries in the world respond to this demand and migrate from their home countries to work as care takers and nannies, fueled by the need to support their own family financially. They then work in other people’s houses, do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, take care of children that are not their own, but all for a salary much higher than the standard they come from.

Ehrenreich and Hochschild discuss this movement of labour and it is consequences in their text “Global Woman”. They also discuss how the migrant women workers leave their own children to be taken care of by the children’s older siblings or grandmothers, how sons and daughters do not see their mothers while growing up and may experience neglect, while their said mothers’ affection is being given to other people’s children in a foreign country.

Additionally, not every domestic woman worker gets what she was promised. A minimum wage a month gets cut in half. Eight hours of rest a day gets ignored, seven days a week. They get overworked, stressed and in many cases abused and forced into giving sexual favors. The problem is, that many of these women are under migrant contracts through United Arab Emirates, which ties them to a single employer to act as their visa-sponsor. Even if they experience abuse and mistreatment, it is not possible to switch employer. The following video is a short documentary, encouraging this contract system to change, so the domestic workers can be protected by law:

My question is, why does it have to be like this?

It is great how women in first world countries today work outside the homes and more frequently do “men’s work”, as it fuels equality. It is no longer expected of the woman to do the domestic labour. She can get an education and work just as much as her husband. But the domestic labour still needs to be done, and so it transfers to migrant women workers with little to no other options of making enough money to support their family. Add to that an ill mentality of the employer, “I bought you, therefore I own you,” and you have grounds for a dangerous situation.

So how can we change this pattern of women from third world countries leaving their family behind, migrating to do domestic work and risking abuse?

Since the demand comes from countries where women’s position has shifted from being at home to being out in the work market, I have a question:

Where are the men?

If things are falling apart because women cannot do all the domestic work anymore, shouldn’t there be another half of the population to step up? If men in first world countries split the labour at home with their wives, picked up the children from daycare institutions and cooked dinner while the other did the laundry, etc., wouldn’t it work?

I am aware that it is not as simple as “get men to do more housework”. But as the social expectation has shifted for women to get an education and a job in first world countries, so is it shifting for men. Slowly, but surely, the traditional gender roles are fading and it is becoming more common for men to do more household chores that is not “fixing the light when it’s broken” and “cutting the hedge”. I believe, even if I may simplify it too much, that there is a way to balance work, children, house chores, and free time if we divide the effort and prioritize the right things.

Finally, as a result the demand for domestic workers would decrease, and women from third world countries would not have to face poor treatment, non-satisfying salary, discrimination and abuse when migrating to a first world country. They could stay with their family, raise their own children and focus their energy on their own household.

But the money really has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?