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?

Social Movements and Japanese Political Culture

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 ...

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011 at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden 日本語: 2011年9月19日に明治神宮外苑で行われたさようなら原発集会 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Chihiro Kobayashi

When I was in the U.S., I joined some social movements such as “Stop Modern Slavery Walk” and “9.11 Unity Walk” for the first time. My image toward the U.S. is that they insist and try to change their society by themselves through social movements if the current society is not what they want. Therefore, when they want to change the society, social movements are one of the most important ways.

However, in Japan, many people would think social movements are a bad thing and they avoid doing it. One of the biggest reasons why Japanese people do not join social movement is that they fear the bizarre eyes toward people those who join movements such as demonstration march. I do not say there is no social movements at all in Japan, but I think the understanding toward social movements is lower than other countries. Since demonstration type of social movement is hated by Japanese, it is important to find the suitable social movement instead to change our society better.

At the Japanese Political Culture Theory class, I learned Japanese people tend to avoid joining social movements as their culture. Instead, they tend to rely on others to change the society. For example, in the case of politics, many Japanese people complain current policies and criticize about the government as well. However, Japanese citizens tend not to make social movements to change these, instead they depend on politicians to change these problems. I do not really know if these tendency is because of Japanese culture as I learned in the Political Theory class, but I think it is sure that many Japanese have negative image toward social movements. However, I think Japanese people need to have better understanding toward social movements because it is difficult to make our society only by depending on the politicians.

In the past seven years, the Prime Minister of Japan has changed seven times, and Japanese citizens do not expect politicians to make our society better anymore. Since Japanese cannot rely on and trust politicians anymore, how we can change our society? I think we individuals need to join social movements and speak out about the problems to the government.

For example, more and more anti-nuclear plants demonstrations have been occurring in Japan recently, since the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. However, Japanese still might avoid joining a social movement, such as a demonstration march, because they do not want to be seen as bizarre in the eyes of other people. I think there are many other ways which is more suitable for Japanese cultural characteristic to join social movements which is other than demonstration. For example, in the case of anti-nuclear power plants, we have these variety of social movements.

  1. Voting for anti-nuclear politicians: Social Democratic Party and Communist party are anti-nuclear plants.
  2. Purchasing campaign: By buying the products from local area, they can appeal that they do no need to depend on money from the nuclear power plants but they can be independent.
  3. Consumer Boycott: Avoid buying the products which company is related to building nuclear power plants, such as Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Hitachi, Ltd.
  4. Changing the deposit account: Our deposit which is deposited in mega bank such as Japan Post Bank and Bank of the post office is used in bond purchases, and as a result, it will be used to construct dam construction and nuclear power plant constriction. By changing the bank account such as to National Association of Labor banks, it is possible to prevent our deposit from being used for building nuclear power plant. (Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant)

Even though these social movements do not stand out openly rather it is more hidden movement different from demonstration march in the city, these movements still have big power to change the society. Also, even if we cannot change our society and policies, we can still influence public policy by bringing attention to the issues. Considering the recent lack of trust in politicians, we individuals need to stand up to make our society better.

I think it is important for Japanese people to find the best suitable social movements for them, based on their political culture (avoiding demonstrations) because we have different culture and characteristics from Americans and other countries. These little by little hidden social movements might change not only policies but also might change people’s negative perspective toward the social movements in the future.


“Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant.” Web. 19 Dec. 2013.