Nannies maids and sex workers in the new economy
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“Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy”. Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, in Rothenberg, Ed., Beyond Borders: Thinking Critically About Global Issues , 2006. Globalization has transformed work/family life for women in rich & poor countries.

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“Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy”

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“Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy”

Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, in Rothenberg, Ed., Beyond Borders: Thinking Critically About Global Issues, 2006.

Globalization has transformed work/family life for women in rich & poor countries

  • Women from poor countries are moving to rich ones, to work as nannies, maids & sex workers

  • Many women in rich countries are succeeding in “male world” careers only by turning over care of children, elderly parents, and homes to women from the Third World

    • These women typically lack help from male partners

The female underside of globalization

  • Millions of women from poor countries in the south migrate to do the “women’s work” of the north – work that affluent women are no longer able or willing to do

  • Migrant women often leave their own children back home, in the care of grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law

Pattern of female migration reflects a “worldwide gender revolution”

  • In both rich & poor countries, fewer families can rely solely on a male breadwinner

  • In the U.S., the earning power of most men has declined since 1970, and many women have gone to work to make up the difference

    • So who will take care of the children, the sick, the elderly?

Hypothesis: The lifestyles of the First World are made possible by a global transfer of the services associated with a wife’s traditional role—child care, homemaking, and sex—from poor countries to rich ones

To generalize and oversimplify:

  • In an earlier phase of imperialism, northern countries extracted natural resources and agricultural products from lands they colonized

  • Today, while still relying on Third World countries for agricultural and industrial labor, the wealthy countries also seek to extract something harder to measure and quantify, that can look very much like love.

Precedents for the globalization of traditional female services

  • In ancient Middle East, women of vanquished populations were routinely enslaved, to serve as household workers and concubines for victors

  • Among the Africans brought to N America as slaves in the 16th – 19th centuries, 1/3 were women & children, and many became concubines and domestic servants

  • 19th century Irishwomen and rural Englishwomen migrated to English towns & cities to work as domestics in homes of growing upper-middle class

The feminization of migration

  • 1950 – 1970, men predominated in labor migration to northern Europe from Turkey, Greece, and North Africa

    • Since then, women have been replacing men

    • In 1946, women were fewer than 3% of the Algerians and Moroccans living in France; by 1990, they were more than 40%

  • Now, half of world’s 120 million legal & illegal migrants are believed to be women

  • Women migrants from many sending countries actually outnumber men, sometimes by a wide margin (See pp. 533-534)

US household workforce has changed w/ life chances of different ethnic groups

  • In late 19th century, Irish and German immigrants served the northern upper & middle classes, then left for factories as soon as they could

  • Black women replaced them, accounting for 60% of all domestics in the late 1940s, and dominated the field until other occupations opened up

  • West coast maids were disproportionately Japanese American until that group found better options

  • Today, ethnicity of workforce varies by region: Chicanas in the Southwest, Caribbeans in New York, native Hawaiians in Hawaii, whites, mostly rural, in Maine

    (Ehreneich, “Maid to Order: The Politics of Other Women’s Work” Harper's, 4/1/2000)

Govt’s of some sending countries actively encourage women to migrate

  • Migrant women are more likely than male counterparts to send hard-earned wages back home to families

    • Generally, they send anywhere from half to nearly all of what they earn

  • These remittances have significant impact on lives of families and kin, as well as on cash-strapped Third World gov’ts

“Care deficit”pulls migrants from Third World and postcommunist countries; poverty pushes them

  • Throughout western Europe, Taiwan, Japan, and esp. in US, women’s employment has increased dramatically since the 1970s

  • As rich countries have grown richer, poor countries have become poorer – in absolute & relative terms

    • Global inequalities in wages are particularly striking

  • To qualify for loans, IMF/WB structural adjustment programs demand poor countries devalue their currencies and cut public spending

    • Increasing incentives for migration to more fortunate parts of the world

Globalization of women’s work is NOT a simple synergy of needs among women

  • Fails to account for failure of First World governments to meet the needs created by women’s entry into workforce

    • The American and—to a lesser degree—European welfare state has become a “deadbeat dad”

    • US does not offer public child care, nor insure paid family and medical leave

  • Omits the role of men, who still do less than their “fair share” of domestic work

    • Often leaving working women with a “second shift”

“Push” factors not so simple either

  • Absolute poverty not a push factor

    • Female migrants not the most impoverished

    • They are typically more affluent and better educated than male migrants

    • Such women are likely to be enterprising and adventurous enough to resist the social pressures to stay home and accept their lot in life

  • Noneconomic factors also influential

    • To escape expectation to care for elderly family members, to give paychecks to husband or father, to defer to an abusive husband

    • A practical response to divorce or need to raise children as single mother

      • Other factors may make men of poor countries less desirable as husbands (e.g., unemployment and related social problems such as alcoholism and gambling)

Globalization of child care & housework brings independent women of world together –but not as sisters & allies with common goals

  • Instead they come together across a great divide of privilege and opportunity

Global relationship of women mirrors traditional relationship b/w sexes

  • The First World takes on a role like that of the old-fashioned male in the family

  • Poor countries take on a role like that of the traditional woman within the family

    • A division of labor feminists critiqued when it was “local” has now, metaphorically speaking, gone global

Concepts can also be arranged on a continuum, from specific to universal

  • universal concepts apply across social settings, historical time, and culture

  • specific concepts apply only to particular social settings, historical eras, or cultures

  • Many concepts fall between these extremes

    (Neumann, pp. 299-300)

Concepts can be grouped in various ways, for example:

  • social structures

  • social processes

  • social relations

  • social actors

  • activities

  • events

  • social contexts/locations/populations

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