Immigration, gender structures and their present roles

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

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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.

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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?

One-Way Gender Equality

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

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by Glenn Soenvisen

Gender equality is indeed important in these post-modern times. Women should have the same wages as men if their job is the same; salaries for women-dominated work should be equal to that of men-dominated work; women should have equal opportunity to participate in the society and workforce. At least in the First World, few would dispute that this should be an inherent right of women, and they are right to do so. However, why is it that gender equality is almost always about women gaining the rights of men? We hardly ever hear about the fight for men to have parental leave, or for working in traditional women’s occupations without prejudice. In a sense, we can say that the ongoing contemporary gender “equality” aims to make women into traditional men instead of making a neuter gender of both men and women, which is the actual goal we aim for. This has consequences both nationally and internationally.

When speaking about the First World, we can say that as a result of the above-mentioned one-way gender equalization we undermine some essential human qualities. Ehrenreich and Hochschild’s “Global Woman” puts it this way:

“It is as if the wealthy parts of the world are running short on precious emotional… resources and have to turn to poorer regions for fresh supplies.”

While women are taking advantage of their retrieved inherent rights, that is, taking higher education, entering the men-dominated workforce, living freely and independently and more, who is going to take care of the house, children and elderly population? Fewer women do, and there’s no significant increase among men either. Furthermore, family relationships may be difficult to retain since the prevailing thought seems to be that one of the two in a relationship must relinquish their inherited rights to stay at home and keep the family going. For a woman it is easier to relinquish her rights because that’s the way it has been, but she doesn’t always want to, and now she increasingly doesn’t have to. For the man it’s hard to do because the system and society doesn’t always allow him – and if he doesn’t want to it’s no problem, because that’s the way it has been. In such a way carework has become an “either/or-”situation; there is no neuter gender role where it can be “both/and.”

However, this does not mean that we do not want relationships, so we turn to nannies and maids, and we pay for their love and care. For this to work though, these people have to earn less than their employers, as is only logical. For the native people who have the opportunity for higher salaries it is not so tempting maybe, but for people living in poorer countries this is a goldmine. The women in the Philippines have noticed this, so in order to support their families many leave their children and husband behind and go abroad to do the care work we in the First World don’t have time for, or rather, no room for. In fact, the women are so many that the Philippines government itself relies to a great deal on the remittances they send home. All the same, there is still a negative pattern to be seen here: nannies and maids earn less than their employers, and the remittances to their family back in the Philippines are even less (after all, the careworkers abroad have to spend money to take care of themselves in the country where they’re working), and the family uses the said remittance to buy food and other necessities in shops where it’s employees earn even less. It’s a downward spiral.

In short, as a result of a one-way gender equalization, namely making women into men, we have not only estranged ourselves from essential human qualities such as love and care, we also help to make a transnational network which might not be very beneficial in the long run. True, it looks quite beneficial on the surface: women in the Philippines take on a male breadwinner role by doing traditional women’s work abroad, and they support their family as well as their country’s economy. Underneath, however, lies the truth that we are only moving the problems around, we are not solving them: firstly, the Philippines becomes a factory sending out careworkers, women who gives love to our children and money to theirs. Secondly, while the care workers abroad might be breadwinners, the gender roles in the home country are likely to remain the same. Lastly, The First World outsources human values so that its people can be free and work like machines, because that’s the traditional man’s role, today’s gender equality. From an economical perspective this might be beneficial, but from an emotional one it’s disastrous.

References

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie Russell Hochschild, ed. 2002. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. New York: Metropolitan.