Echoes of female transnational migration: Care-giving jobs in Korea

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

According to United Nations (2013), female migrants represent about half of all transnational migration. Among women migrants, there has been an increase of number of women migrants working in care-giving jobs and health-care workers (Pyle, 2006).

Pyle’s article reminded me of Korea’s current popular phenomena of having care-givers who are transnational migrants. Since domestic workers do not wish to work as care-givers (due to the low wage compared to working times and the low social standing), a great portion of care-givers are transnational migrants. Also, with the increasing number of double-income families, wealthy Korean families have started to hire migrants from developing countries to take care of household chores at a cheap price.

In Korea, the role of care-giver is not only for household affairs but also for educating children of Korean family. At first, female migrants were wanted as they already have skills to take care of basic household chores learned from their own country. Yet, recently, as language ability has been highly encouraged, wealthy Korean families have started to look for hiring female migrants who are capable of speaking foreign languages such as English and Chinese. Many female Filipinos and Chinese are working in the care-giving industry in Korea, as they can take charge of both housework and language education.

This care-giving job system using female transnational migrants can benefit both sides; Korean families can get cheaper labor, and migrants can get a job which pays higher salary compared to the situation in their nation, and earn foreign currency, which they can bring back to their own country. Despite these merits, this phenomena echoes throughout the world, creating an endless circle of female migrants engaging in care-giving jobs.

Care-givers who are working in a foreign country can send money to their own country and family. However, as the ‘mother’ does not exist in migrants own family, the family needs to hire another cheap labored migrants as care-givers. Thus, this female transnational migration in care-giving labors echoes the phenomena of hiring care-giver migrants from a poorer country, a poorer country, and a more and more poorer country, and so on. The endless circle of becoming and hiring care-givers is created and the continuous circle traps female transnational migrants under its re-echoing system.

Reference

Pyle, J. L. Globalization, transnational migration, and gendered care work: Introduction. Globalizations 3:283-295.

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From Ebony to Ivory: Colorism in the Philippines

by Jiyang Shin

The ever-expanding skin whitening market in the Philippines seems to have distinctive characteristics compared to the markets of other countries that also value lighter skin tones. In the discourse of colorism, many tend to conclude that the phenomenon of skin whitening obsession is largely due colonization by European conquistadors; however, that is not always the case in the Philippines.

I would like to raise an example of skin whitening advertisement, featuring Jinky Oda, an African American comedian in the Philippines. The advertisement is composed of before-and-after pictures of Oda. On the left hand side is Oda’s torso before she went on the skin whitening pill. She is in a white tank top, wears gold hoop earings, and has her natural curly hair all swept back with bandana like hair band; a casual style of a typical African American woman that we can easily relate to.

On the right hand side is Oda after finishing the pill, in her brand new bleached-up skin. However, that is not the only significant difference that one can tell from the picture. Other noticeable features are that her attire is considerably more dressy than the left side (you can notice it although the ad only shows down to her chest), but even more importantly, the texture of her hair has turned silky and straightened like the East Asian look that a vast number of Filipino women crave.

One can observe sinister motives behind this marketing. In the book Shades of Difference, Joanne L. Rondilla argues that there are generally three major messages that are conveyed in skin whitening advertisement in the Philippines:

1. Darkening can and must be stopped.

Why? Because having dark skin does not make you good enough.

2. Lightness comes from “within”.

This message misleads people into thinking that their natural color is lighter than they expected, thus their desire to turn white is achievable.

3. Lightening can happen instantly.

The advertisement that featured Oda is unethical because it links having darker skin with wrongness by dressing up her in casual attire. In addition, she seems to have more weight in her before picture, implying she was sloppier when she had a darker skin tone (fatness is often linked to laziness). Such indirect messages have the great potential of stirring up or further encourage racism and discriminations against certain groups of people.

As for why many women in the Philippines opt for a Chinese or Korean look, I argue that it is due to racial hierarchy that exists among Asian countries. For example, in South Korea, people of Southeast Asia origin encounter difficulties renting rooms and searching for jobs. Moreover, in Japan, Filipino people are often referred to as “Pina”, which is a derogatory term used against women who perform in sex-related work. Such unequal treatment might have gradually developed a sense of inferiority towards people of lighter skin color in East Asian countries. I argue that people attempt to escape from such discriminations by assimilating into those who discriminate against them.

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Selling whiter skin for beauty

by Kohsei Ishimoto

In Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (2009), Joanne L. Rondilla looks at the different techniques are used in the cosmetics industry. When looking at the Philippines, advertisements focus on ‘whitening’ the skin, because the people in the country tend to have darker skin. On the other hand, when looking at European countries, advertisements look at ‘brightening’ the skin, for there is the idea that people in these countries naturally have light skin.

When looking at these advertisements, it can be seen that to be beautiful, you must have white skin. Rondilla explains that there are many people in the Philippines who buy skin-whitening products to look beautiful, but is being ‘white’ really being beautiful? The main answer to why ‘white’ is thought to be ‘beautiful’ is colonization. To the countries that had been colonized, the European countries had been superior, fixing the image that ‘whites’ are ‘better’.

When reading Rondilla’s chapter, however, it can be seen that there are various ‘types’ of white skin. One is the European beauty that was mentioned earlier, and the other the ‘Asian beauty’. This refers to East Asian countries, such as China and Japan. Filipinos are actually looking at ‘Asian beauty’, possibly because these countries are closer to them. In Japan’s case, the country looks at being ‘white’, trying to achieve the European look. This statement can be said to be wrong however, for recently Japanese people want to be seen as individuals.

When looking at various advertisements, it can be seen that models of different skin tones are used. For advertisements that use ‘white’ women, companies state that they are the ‘result’ of the product. On the other hand, companies that use models of a darker tone state that it does not look ‘right’, telling the consumers to change by buying the product. It is a fact that many purchase skin-whitening products to gain their ‘beauty’, but exactly how close are they to their ideal image? Will consumers ever believe that they are beautiful enough? The answer to this is probably no. The cosmetics industry has control over the consumers, by selling only a small portion of a product, or changing advertising techniques to trick us into believing that our images are not yet satisfactory. When thinking about this, it is interesting to wonder why people use cosmetics in the first place. Can not having any make-up on be considered beautiful? The answer to this can be explained through society; how people see you, and how you want to be seen.

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Environmental Racism – A problem with no visible solution

Save our water

Save our water (Photo credit: uusc4all)

by Jonas Horvei

The world as we know it is still very much an unequal society.  It is unequal because how others will treat us in our lives is already to a certain extent pre-determined on the day when we are born. Where we are born, our nationality, our family’s background, one’s looks, and the color of one’s skin and so on all plays different in how others will perceive and treat you. A few weeks ago I learned of another new concept related to inequality and discrimination called “Environmental Racism”. According to the USlegal (2013) definition, environmental racism can be defined in the following way:

Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities. (2013, USLegal)

Hand in hand with the concept of environmental racism, we also have the concept of environmental justice. In short, environmental justice can be said to be a movement’s response to solve the issues of environmental racism. It is more or less a social movement who strives to put an end to environmental racism, or at the very least to create a more even distribution of both the benefits and burdens.

According to the basic principles of Environmental justice, the movement strives towards the following goals:

  • For everyone to be protected from environmental harm
  • The elimination of environmental threats
  • That everyone has the freedom to participate in environmental decision making

Whether it is possible to realize these ideals or not is a completely different question. What we can conclude so far though is at least, that social movements such as these do help, and they do have results. Pellow and Brulle (2007) describe in one article how the environmental justice movement has been able to fight against cases of environmental racism in the United States. They describe first how researchers managed to provide conclusive evidence that there was in fact a large bias in hazardous waste sites being located in communities where the majority of the citizens were minority groups. Through years of long battles the environmental justice movement helped stop the construction of over 300 garbage incinerators in the United States just in the period short period from 1985-1998. At the same they also influenced the large decline of municipal waste and medical incinerators also in the United States.

In such cases, we can clearly see that social movements do provide a very important element on the local level to stop the construction of sources of hazardous emissions. They highlighted the issues of environmental racism, and the dangers associated with chemical waste incinerators. Without the environmental justice movement, it is hard to say what the situation would be like, but it is evident that social movements do help.

As can be observed, the movement of environmental justice in America has had a strong impact on American society and has had a positive effect, whereas many of the most hazardous polluters have either been shut down or forced to relocate, and has made it difficult in the creation of new such polluting sources in America. Nevertheless even with such incredible results achieved, I cannot help but having this pessimistic view that there is still a long way to go and that future outlook certainly might not exactly be optimistic as many are to believe.

Then comes the problem, what do we actually do with the waste? With larger volumes of waste being produced, where do we put it, what do we do it? We put it somewhere else and ignore the problem. In my opinion, it seems like we are simply witnessing a relocation of the problem itself, that is to say that the problem is instead being transferred to somewhere else. Due to the influence of globalization, more and more industries take the leap abroad, often to developing countries. In such countries not only are labor costs cheaper, the emission restrictions are often much more relaxed. As a result the developed country can remove its pollution problem from its own border, while at the same time gaining profit from not having it in locating it their home country. So even if we might see an improvement in terms of hazardous waste and pollution in our local culture, it does not necessarily mean that the problem has disappeared. In fact in many cases it is highly likely just that it has simply been relocated somewhere else. America does it, Japan does, China does it, even Norway does it, and every country is guilty of it. For instance you have the case of Thor Chemicals, Inc, who during the 1980s moved its mercury reclamation processing facility from the corporation’s home in England to a village in South Africa. (Harper, Rajan 2004, p.3) Cases on international scale where the Northern countries move production, or move the waste disposal to southern countries are unfortunately far too common.

Then what is the solution to environmental inequality and environmental racism? Environmental emissions, pollution and hazardous waste are some of the biggest problems we are facing on a worldwide scale. There is no easy fix, it is as simple as that. Stricter restrictions, finding more environmental friendly solutions, raising awareness of the problem, and stopping making companies benefit from polluting rather than operating environment-friendly are some of the solutions off the top of my head. That is how we I believe we can minimize the problem. As long as issues of environmental pollution exist, inequality will also exist. As sad as it may sound, this is a natural part of human nature, we discriminate against those who are different. As long as we can get away with it, we discriminate, and as long as it remains more profitable to dump waste in neighborhoods with minority groups, or shipping off tons of waste to the Philippines or Bangladesh, environmental inequality will persist, without taking into account the health of other human beings that do not belong in our local environment.

References

Harper, Rajan. “International Environmental Justice: Building the Natural Assets of the World’s Poor.” University of Massachusetts, August 2004. Web 18.December. 2013. http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP87.pdf

Brulle, Pellow. “Poisioning the planet: the struggle for environmental justice” the American sociological association, 2007. Web 18 December. 2013.

Banning Sex-Work Backfires

Hostess club sign, Roppongi

Hostess club sign, Roppongi (Photo credit: Susanna Quinn – Book Group Author)

Anonymous student post

In 2004 a newly required Trafficking in Persons Report was released by the U.S. Department of State. The report stated that Filipinas working as hostesses in Japanese clubs constituted the largest group of sex-trafficked persons, making up more than 10 percent of the total worldwide. In response to the deeply embarrassing report, the Japanese government decided to take quick action. New visa requirements and a more rigorous screening process were hurriedly enacted for those seeking the “entertainment visa,” which is how most sex-workers would classify themselves.

The result looked great on paper. The number of Filipina hostesses in Japan dropped 90%, from 82,741 in 2004 to 8,607 in 2006. But in reality sex-workers were still being trafficked into Japan, worse yet they now were rendered “illegal”. The sex workers coming into Japan were coming on their own volition for the most part. But now, they find themselves at the mercy of their employers without any laws to protect them. Since they are no longer legally in Japan, they have little ground to defend themselves from abusive or even dangerous employers. Even though Japan has improved itself in the eyes of the Trafficking in Persons Report, the short-sighted tactic they chose backfired making the matter worse for trafficked workers.

Since required workers are required to prove 2 years of training or internship as performing visual artists, Filipinas have resorted to coming in through illegal means. The new sex-workers are tightly coupled to their employers due to their illegal nature. The problem being they still needed jobs, and there was still a lucrative market to fill. No matter what laws the Japanese government imposes, there will always be loopholes that the illegal market finds around them, and in this case it was at the expense of the victims themselves.

It is no surprise that Japan was at the top of the list of Trafficking in Persons report. As long as the market in Japan for sex-workers exists, the problem with migrant sex-workers will coexist. The market for sex-work in Japan is disproportionately large for a country among the 5 highest in GDP.  If paying for sexual services had the taboo reputation it does in other world powers, the demand for sex-work in Japan wouldn’t be large enough to cause embarrassment. If the Japanese government could convince citizens that paying for sexual services is unpopular, they could do a much more effective job at mitigating the issue, and better yet, it wouldn’t be at the expense of the migrant sex-worker victims themselves. Additionally, new markets for the migrant workers would appear.

Criminalizing migrant sex workers does not aim for the core of the issue. Rather, a reduction of the market for sex-workers needs to take place in order to mitigate the demand. The sexual objectification of women is rampant among males in Japan. Gender inequality in Japan is partly to blame for the sexual objectification of women. The popularity of hostess bars and other payed-for sex work is deeply entrenched in masculine Japanese culture today.  If women were seen equally, the Japanese would begin to see what’s taboo, or even wrong with sex work. Societies view of women leaves migrant workers with little choice outside the uncomfortable opportunity for sex work. The government needs to work from the ground up with education of Japanese youth. The distinct, unbalanced roles of men and women need to be flattened out for society to understand the detriments of objectification of sex.

References

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-13/what-i-learned-about-migrant-sex-workers-by-being-one-part-1-parrenas.html

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

Global Care Chain Reinforcing Gender Roles

English: photo rhacel parrenas

Rhacel Parreñas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuri Kasai

I would like to discuss about ‘global care chains’. This concept was first used by Arlie Hochschild and developed by many authors such as Rhacel Parreñas. This concept refers to global processes to exchange care and salary. Care includes child care nursing for the sick and elderly people, and love giver. I will focus on global chains of child care, which we discussed in class.

About child care, women in richer countries cannot raise their children because they are busy from their job and they do not have time to bring up children. Therefore, women in richer countries hire a migrant mother from the poorer country as a nanny. Nannies send remittance to their family to support financially instead of taking care of their children. The role of migrant mothers to care their own children is imposed on their older female sibling or their relative women and most fathers who stay in their home do not help to care children. The distribution of roles attributes gender role in the migrant’s home countries. Philippines are one of the sending countries of nannies and most Philippines’ male families do not help out child rearing. Host countries of foreigner nannies are the US and European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and Italy (GCIM, 5).

I think the labor exchange of child rearing cannot replace to parental love. Our professor argued that care is not an exchangeable resource like any other products, and hiring nannies lets parents in developed countries to keep two types of illusions: 1) the illusion to have all including work, family, and leisure, and 2) the illusion of maternal love. I agree with this opinion.

Parents’ assumptions let them to spend their time to develop their career or something. The families seek what they want to do, lose strong tie and time to gather around. However, family relations last for many years till parents die in many cases, even though the children do not like their parents.

Family is not collection of blood relations but a tie of human with love. It is better for parents to create good relations with children through rearing them well from babyhood. If not, parents have difficulty that children take to them and children maybe take to only their nanny, considering about the time to spend for children. Their children are not the status of parents but humans who need love. If parents need good relations with their children, parents need to care their children physically instead of hiring nannies for children. To migrant mothers, if they can love children deeply as a nanny, they miss their own children. Parents in developed countries should notice this and think that breeding children need physical care.

In order to reduce the number of children without love from parents, I think we need to make society with smaller gender role. Although migrant nannies give maternal love for children, children need parents’ love to be a good family. In some developed countries, such as the US, Germany or Italy, they seemed to complete better gender-free society. However, children care is depended on migrant mothers and gender role is imposed on immigrants. This tendency does not destroy gender role and gender role in developing countries enlarges to the developed countries. We should make global society without gender role.

Reference

Global Migration Perspective: Global Care Chains, A Critical Introduction. Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM). Sep, 2005. www.gcim.org.

Care Crisis at the Core of Gender Non-Equality

by Anna Dreveau

As Rhacel Salazar Parreñas notices in her chapter, “The Care Crisis in the Philippines,” a “crisis of care” is striking developed and developing countries.

As women in developed countries tend to a more masculine position, i.e. a career-oriented job instead of her traditional mother role. Those both income household generally let their children without any family care anymore. Indeed, the traditional gender roles are as such: the father is away from home, working as the family breadwinner and the mother stay at home, taking care of domestic labor and childcare. Those views are still contemporary, even in some developed countries, such as Japan.

However, in most Western societies, roles tend to become more gender-neutral. Does that mean that former female and male-specific role’s work share is equally divided ? That both parents manage to contribute to childcare and work ?

Alas, it was not the path paved by those claiming for a more gender egalitarian society. Wanted to be able to have a professional career, women did achieve to get it, but the load of work of their “mother role” did not decrease. Therefore, two options are offered: either being a “supermom”, being able to achieve both career and family life or simply abandon the task of taking care of the children to someone else, because of obvious lack of time.

As Parreñas observed, to respond to this demand of caretakers, women from developing countries, such as the Philippines, came to those families to be hired to take care of their children, leaving their own children back in their mother countries, generally in the custody of relatives.
The initially from-developed-country care deficit is thus moving into developing countries, through the process of global care chain. And quite similarly to developed countries, women gain the status of the main income earner of the family, getting the respect from this position within the family. Still, the buck is passed to those transnational mothers by mass media or local government as they are seen to have abandon their most important and initial role: being here and taking care of the children. Even though Parreñas’ examples can overcome the “not taking care of the children” part (as they do so as a “long-distance supermom”), their absence is undeniable.

Nevertheless, the real absent one in family life that can be observed in both developed and developing countries seems to be the father. Even though the father’s role is considered important even in gender non-egalitarian society, they are not relied on when the mother is away as other relatives or even elder siblings are preferred, as Parreñas’ interviewees testified. It would be unjust to claim that in Western countries, families do not rely on fatherhood as those societies became increasingly aware of both parenting’s benefits. Still, even those rely more on motherhood to raise children: as an example, when a couple get a divorce, this is easier for the mother to get custody for the child(ren) than it is for the father.

Getting more gender equality do not mean getting women at the same standards than men, but creating middle standards in which both gender can fit equally. Dividing work and family life more equally is one of the solution, but the most important thing to get rid of is those sexist expectations that just build the gender non-egalitarian societies around the world.

Tackling human trafficking, the modern form of slavery

Trafficking of women, children and men

by Anastasia Maillot

As I read several parts from Rhacel Parreñas’ Illicit Flirtations: Labor, Migration and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo she introduced me to a rather terrifying fact. Philippine women migrating to Japan in search of hostess jobs are the most trafficked population in the world, working in conditions where their passports are taken and where they have no other option but to continue working in what I would call modern slavery or servitude with a nonexistent salary. As a response to the growing issues concerning Philippine migrants, the Japanese government has imposed stricter rules to entertainment visas, which has in turn barred the route for legal ways into the country and caused illegal entry through middlemen to flourish. Although Parrenãs brings out the positive in hostess work by explaining that few of the Philippine women feel like victims but instead see it as a way to gather money for their future or their families back home, I think there is a huge problem here, something that seems almost ignored; these women live in servitude, a form of modern slavery. This is not a job they do out of good will but because they have no choice.

Wasn’t slavery supposed to be over since the civil war? After reading Parreñas, I had to investigate and see it for myself. The truth is, there are more people living in slavery today than ever before. The site Free The Slaves estimates that at least 27 million people live in slavery, half of them being children. Moreover, I was shocked even further to find out from Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, that human trafficking more specifically is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This means that today, what crosses our borders most often are not drugs or weapons, but human beings treated as mindless objects and sold into servitude. So, no, slavery is not over and it would be a mistake to say that it does not exist in the Global North, because it does. There seems to be this misconception that whatever atrocities happen in the Global South do not happen in “our countries”. We fail to understand that this phenomenon is everywhere around us, in factories, mines, brothels, farms, restaurants and construction sites. We simply close our eyes from the fact that we carry clothing made with extremely cheap labor and eat food from farmers that are deliberately exploited. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that anyone working as a stripper or as a hostess is most likely doing it because they chose to do so and want to.

Parreñas does say that people get involved into this because of the need for money. The Philippines is a good example as a country, because of its economic dependence on these women who leave their country in search for a better income either as hostesses or nannies. But this also puts these women in very fragile positions in host countries, as some of them might be ready to do anything to feed their family back home. This sense of necessity exists everywhere. There have even been cases in the US where parents have sold their children into slavery, although it remains more marginal than in the Global South. Still, we participate into this process by providing the demand to those middlemen, who then go out to look for these women, children or even men. We need to stop ignoring the alarming fact that more and more people are becoming victims due to economic necessities and do something about it, as trafficking and thus slavery is an issue that affects every nation in the world.

Governments have generally been slow or reluctant to do anything about trafficking, preferring to cover the issue with a band aid and hoping that things will eventually get better. Now, I understand the difficulty of tracking down the middlemen who sell these victims, not to mention the buyers or the customers. However, I came across a reading, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It, by David Batstone, that introduced me to several different cases of slavery and trafficking in different countries and how the problem was successfully dealt with. Most often people have witnessed face to face the difficulties of the victims, felt compassionate and started searching for alternatives. In Thailand for example, a woman set up a jewelry business in which she recruited women from brothels, giving them a proper job, opportunities and restored their self-confidence. In Peru, a local woman provided temporary housing and activities out of benevolence for street children who face violence, trafficking and uncertainty every day. In many countries, most notably in Italy, churches work actively to rescue victims of trafficking and pulling them out of slavery by giving them a better life with opportunities. By working locally, we can make things change, but this requires the effort of everyone, not just “the chosen few”. As the example of Parreñas on the Japanese government showed, simple restrictions and ignorance of the actual heart of the issue will not solve anything, but instead create more illegal routes for trafficking and slavery to happen. A wider safety net for trafficked people is needed and the victims should not be punished for coming to the police and asking for help.

It is easy to ignore these issues, to think that it isn’t happening in your country or that it is too difficult to get involved. By thinking like this we will never be able to change things and rescue victims from the unacceptable conditions they live in all over the world. I acknowledge that with the resources we have now it is not possible to save everyone, but in order to tackle these issues we must think positively and proceed step by step. There are many options out there for us to explore, many cases in which local people have taken a step forward and done something about it. Even one victim with better opportunities, a real job and a much better life is already a victory in our battle against human trafficking and slavery.

One-Way Gender Equality

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

Cover via Amazon

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.

Filipino hostesses in Japan: Volition or Coercion?

Rhacel Parreñas in the field, working as a hostess in Tokyo

by Jonas Horvei

According to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (2013), human trafficking can be defined as:

“[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

In this week’s blog post I would like to examine to whether or not Filipino hostesses working Japan can be considered as victims of human trafficking, especially under the category of sex trafficking. I will also consider whether there is a possibility that this is not the case of human trafficking, but rather an action which they carry out by their own volition.

First of all I would like to examine what kind of typical activities a hostess performs while working in a bar in Japan.

  • Takes on the role as an entertainer
  • Pours her customers drinks, often alcoholic beverages
  • Dances with them
  • Sings for her customers, often karaoke
  • Talks with her customers, being engaged in a conversation, often with a bit of “flirtative” nature, often while at the same time complimenting them.

On the basis of only this, it is naturally impossible to say whether these people working in such establishment are victims of human trafficking or not. Nevertheless if we look a bit deeper and consider if this at the perspective of sex trafficking we can start hypothesizing at least. According to the U.S Code §7102 – (10) sex trafficking can be defined as the following;

The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act”.

Judging from this definition, there does not seem to be any particular aspects that resembles a commercial sex act, and thus I argue that such kind of cannot be considered a case of sex trafficking. Although occasionally acts such as masturbating the customer did occur, nothing was mentioned whether this was carried out by their own volition or not. Looking at the culture of south-east Asian countries though, such “happy ending” customs are fairly normal in especially massage establishments such as in China and Thailand, which might explain why this is not necessarily  considered prostitution. While there are Filipinos working as prostitutes in Japan, at least on the surface it seems to me at first glance that the Filipino who come to serve as hostess, are mainly not victims of sexual trafficking.

For the meantime, let us go back to the case of human trafficking and see if there is any evidence that these workers can be considered victims of such a phenomenon. While indeed, it is likely that some of the Filipinos who migrate to Japan are forced to go against their own volition, and thus can be defined as victims of human trafficking, I argue that this is the exception rather than the norm. According to Parreñas (2011 p.3) no conclusive evidence exists that these workers are victims of human trafficking, but rather research indicates that most of the workers take this decision by themselves, and migrate by their own volition. Yet again according to Parreñas (2003 p.199), as much as 34 to 54 percent of the Filipino population is sustained by remittances by migrant workers. Such numbers tells exactly how much of an importance overseas Filipinos workers affect the homeland economy.

Nevertheless despite most of these people not being victims of human trafficking, there is no question that especially for migrants in such vulnerable occupations the working conditions can be lackluster, and that they might be victims of forced labor. This is something which needs to urgently be addressed, preferably in collaboration between the Philippines and the Japanese government.

Since 1999, Japan’s immigration policies have made it considerably more difficult, ultimately forcing many bars to shut down and many having difficulty coming over to work as hostesses (National University of Singapore, 2012). However, imposing restrictions on entertainer visas is in my opinion not a solution to combat human trafficking, or rather it is not a solution to improve the labor conditions for Filipino hostesses. Rather, I think such restrictions are what actually promotes and can actually be the trigger to human trafficking in the first place.

These migrants cannot work in their own country, the wages are either not enough to support a family, or simply they cannot find a jobs. Then naturally the next step is to seek work elsewhere, a different city, or a different country. Suddenly these options start to dwindle, and one is only left with the options of either living a life full of poverty or as a last resort they become victims or sexual trafficking, or become prostitutions out of their own volition to take care of their family.

I argue that hostess is a harmless job, and as long as this work is carried out of their own volition, restrictions should be lessened on entertainer visas, back to the way they used to be. Still, these people will continue to be exploited due to their resident status and so on, and therefore I believe the most important step to take now is rather than imposing more and more restrictions, a step in the right direction would be to protect these people by giving them more rights to them being victims of forced labor, and to collectively come up with a solution which can benefit all parties involved.

As summarized by the United Nations Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings report, a lot of the responsibility lay at the hands of the Japanese and Filipino government to improve this situation (Cameron and Newman).

References

“Human Trafficking.”  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html

“U.S Codes – USC§ 7102 Definitions” Cornell University Law School. Accessed 17 Nov. 2013., http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/7102

Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. Illicit Flirtation; Labor, Migration, and Sex Trafficking in Tokyo. Stanford University Press (2011).

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. New York: Metropolitan Books

“Filipino in Hostess Clubs.” National University of Singapore, 29 Apr. 2012. Accessed 17 Nov 2013 http://wiki.nus.edu.sg/display/JPE2012/Filipino+in+hostess+clubs

Cameron, Sally, and Edward Newman. “Trafficking of Filipino Women to Japan: Examining the Experiences and Perspectives of Victims and Government experts” United Nations University. Online-only journal. Accessed Nov 17. 2013. http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/human_trafficking/Exec_summary_UNU.pdf