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  1. Topics • Background • Two major kinds of foreign migrant workers: • A. Foreign factory workers • B. Foreign domestic helpers

  2. Background of transnational labor migration in East and Southeast Asia Vivien Wee and Amy Sim, “Transnational Labor Networks in Female Labor Migration: Mediating between Southeast Asian Women Workers and International Labor Markets,” SEARC Working Papers Series, No. 49, City University of Hong Kong, 2003

  3. Trajectories of transnational labor migration (1) • Major sending countries: Burma, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam • Major receiving countries: Canada, the European Union, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, USA, and countries in the Middle East • Malaysia: send workers to Singapore; receive workers from Indonesia) • Thailand: send workers to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan; receive workers from Burma and Laos

  4. Trajectories of transnational labor migration (2) • In Hong Kong in 2001, more than 200,000 documented foreign workers • Most transnational migrant workers were female • E. g. Indonesian female immigrant workers: Indonesian male immigrants workers=100: 30 (statistics in 1993-1994)

  5. How did they get to work overseas • Examples of Commercial Agents for transnational labor migration • Taiwan: the Dart-wits Manpower Co. Ltd; the Great Manpower Co. • Hong Kong: the Proxy-maid Service Center • Singapore: the Maid Power Ltd.

  6. SOSC 102 U Lecture Note 13 Transnational Immigrant Labor

  7. What do these commercial agents do • Recruit the workers • Provide training • Find them employment (agents in sending societies would contact with agents in receiving societies) • Arrange their passage • Provide loans • Draw up contracts • Remit their remuneration • Arrange their repatriation Wee and Sim (2003: 4)

  8. Impoverishment Decision to work overseas Medical check-up, training and orientation Pre-departure: search for an employer Departure: leave sending country Arrive in host country Migration Cycle of a migrant women worker Wee and Sim, 2003, p. 6 Enquiry: friends, family, acquaintances, job-placement agencies Fees levied by agents (may result in debts) Repatriation: end of contract, get an extension, look for another contract, or go home Employment: work, get paid, pay the debts, remit money back home

  9. Marketing the Immigrant Workers* • Nationality-based stereotypes (constructed by the brokers and accepted by the employers) • Thai men: hard-working and honest  make the best factory and construction work • Filipino men: good at handling machines  good factory work • Filipina women: better educated, “more civilized”, good in English  take care of children • Indonesian women: loyalty, caring, willingness to work hard  take care of the sick and elderly * Interview of Anne Loveband (2003)

  10. Foreign Factory Workers Anru Lee’s case study on Thai workers in a Taiwan factory (Lee in Chow, Ch. 9)

  11. Foreign Labor as Factory Worker • Why they are in need? • How do they get to work overseas? • What do they do? • How about their salaries?

  12. Why are they in need • Young generation of Taiwanese women do not want to work in a factory • Foreign workers become alternative source of cheap labor

  13. How do they get to work overseas? • Bilateral agreements between sending and receiving states: only citizens of sending countries can be recruited to work overseas • The Taiwan government would adopt a system of quota control and issue a two-year non-renewable work permit to foreign workers • To prohibit them from permanent settlement, each foreign worker can stay in Taiwan no longer than six years and cannot transfer employers freely

  14. Sexual division of labor in textiles between male and female Taiwanese workers E.g. Men’s work: mechanics Women’s work: tend looms, upload and download fabrics No explicit sexual division of labor Sometimes Thai male workers are assigned to do those “women’s work” Usually foreign workers are asked to do the undesirable jobs—the 3 D (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) work What do they do in the shop floor

  15. Estimation of average monthly wages for Taiwanese workers (paid by piece-rate wage system) Male workers: U. S. $ 1,111-1,481 Female workers: U. S. $ 814 Male and Female Thai workers: U. S. $ 518 (paid by fixed monthly salary) U. S. $ 518 is the minimum wage according to the Labor Standards Law in Taiwan Salary gaps in textile factory (workers performing similar work)

  16. Foreign Domestic Helpers Mary Romero, Maid in the U. S. A. (N. Y. and London, 1992) Nicole Constable, Maid to Order in Hong Kong (Cornell, 1997) Anne Loveband, “Positioning the Product: Indonesian Migrant Women Workers in Contemporary Taiwan,” SEARC Working Papers Series, No. 43, City University of Hong Kong, 2003. P. C. Lan, “Micropolitics of employing migrant domestic workers,” Social Problems, Vol. 50, No. 4 (2003): 525-249.

  17. Foreign domestic helpers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore • 150,000 Filipina domestic workers are hired in Hong Kong, out of a total population of approximately 7 million • 80,000 Filipina domestic workers are hired in Singapore, out of a total population of 4 million • 120,000 foreign domestic workers from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia are hired in Taiwan, out of a total population of 22 million • (Hong Kong and S’pore: Daniel A. Bell; Taiwan: Lan)

  18. Who are the foreign domestic helpers? • Are they professional domestic helpers from the beginning? • No. Some of them have college degrees but could not find a job after graduation (esp. the Filipinas); some of them held professional jobs such as nurses or teachers • “Contradictory class mobility”: people downgrade their jobs from professional or semi-professional tracks to take on unskilled and demeaning jobs while gaining higher wages overseas

  19. How do they “become” domestic helpers? • In a recruitment agents in sending countries: “Packing the product”--to transform women of different backgrounds into a domestic workers • The training include how to cook, to do household chores, to use modern electronic facilities • All women would be required to become (or at least to look like) a hardworking, submissive, and obedient domestic helper

  20. How do Potential Employers Choose their Live-in Maids? Middle income or above: Family with kids under 12 or the older above 65 Local agents e. g. the Proxy-maid Service Center Access to individual applicant files The agency coordinates the necessary paperwork with a counterpart agency of the sending country See candidates on video monitors After three or four months, the maid arrives

  21. Why are they hired? • Why are domestic helpers in need? Where are the housewives? • Many double-income families cannot arrange time to fulfill these home demands • “market substitutes” of home demands • Some upper middle and upper class families with full-time housewives would also hire domestics helpers

  22. Implication of Hiring Domestic Workers for double-income families • Wee and Sim: “This [practice of hiring domestic maids] reflects a particular developmental trajectory where the economy is developed through the labor force participation of its female citizens, without the government compensating for the withdrawal of their labor in social reproduction.”

  23. Why foreign maids were favored than compatriot maids • Hiring women of different races to work for domestic helpers is a common practice • For example, middle-class families in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan (mostly ethnic Chinese) hire domestic helpers from Indonesia and the Philippines • In the U. S., many white middle- and upper-class families hire working-class women of color (esp. the Chicano women from Mexico) as domestic helpers

  24. Why don’t the middle-class women hire someone of their own color? • Interviews of white middle-class women in the U. S.: the employers regard that hiring a woman of color is a form of social benefit, reducing the unemployment rate of the minorities • Scholars (Romeo, Lan, and Loveband) however argue that the working relationship entails a racial and class hierarchy between the middle-class employers and the domestic workers

  25. Racial and class hierarchy • Master-servant relationship is easier to establish when the differences are obvious • Ethnic differences help to establish class domination—compared with hiring a compatriot maid, employers would feel more comfortable to control the relationship • Employers vs. Employees: class and racial differences

  26. Labor process of domestic helpers • Domestic work include two primary spheres: physical labor and emotional labor • Physical labor: the employers decide what aspects of physical labor should be left for domestic helpers to take care of. While some employers hire women to replace their own labor, others hire women to do much more demanding household labor

  27. Labor process of domestic helpers • Emotional labor: domestic helpers are hired to do emotional labor, such as to talk, to offer psychological support, and to be accompany with the employers • “Protomothers” of domestic helpers: expected to perform the emotional labor of “mothering” both the women employers and their families • Would reciprocal relationship be established through emotional labor and thus diminished the master-servant hierarchy • Romeo’s research on domestic work in the U. S.: No.

  28. Emotional labor and social hierarchy • The inherent power relation between an employer and employee • 1. Employers expect to be consoled, but the psychological needs of domestic helpers are often neglected • 2. Most employers would show a condescending manner to interact with their domestic helpers • 3. Even when employers initiated conversations at a peer level, domestic helpers have to hide their real feeling • 4. “Instrumental personalism” or “strategic intimacy”: Some employers would try to makes friends with domestic helpers in exchange for better service

  29. When home becomes a workplace… (hiring live-in domestic helpers) • Domestic service creates a unique social setting that women (or men) from different social-economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds interact in an informal and intimate way • The social setting is the employer’s home

  30. “Boundary work”* • Theory of “Boundary Work”: the strategies, principles, and practices we use to create, maintain, and modify cultural categories • For example, employees would describe the home/work boundary by organizing realm-specific matters, people, objects, and aspects of the self • In the context of domestic service: both the employers and employees would negotiate the boundaries between each other • Visible boundary and invisible boundary Based on P. C. Lan’s research on Filipina domestic work in Taiwan

  31. Visible boundary • Eating arrangement in a family: who is included in the dining table, where to sit at the table, who eats before or after whom, who gets more food, better quality, and a larger variety, whose tastes or needs are prioritized • Spatial arrangement (living/working space)

  32. Invisible boundary • Invisible boundary: guardianship (are employers the foreign migrant maids’ protectors?); privacy (how much should they know each other?)

  33. Employer’s boundary work Family Boundary Inclusion Exclusion Distant Hierarchy Highlighting Maternalism Class/ ethnic divides Business Relationship Personalism Downplaying

  34. Workers’ boundary work • Live-in domestic workers live in a dual life—the life with “front” “and “backstage” • Life in the front stage: submissive servants on weekdays • Life in the backstage: go to church, picnic, meet friends, go shopping, dancing, etc. on Sunday

  35. Workers’ boundary work in “front stage” Front/backstage boundary Integrating Segmenting Keeping safe distance Seeking patronage Accepting Class/ ethnic divides Highlighting status similarity Obscuring previous positions Objecting

  36. discussion • Equal rights for foreign resident workers? • Pros: Liberal democratic theorists argue that foreign resident workers should be put on the road to citizenship. Rights of guest workers in Europe and immigrants in North America are protected by laws (Daniel A. Bell) • Cons: if the foreign workers are not satisfied with the wages and labor conditions, they can choose to leave and to return their home countries