Migrant Domestic Workers: Debating Transnationalism, Identity Politics, and Family Relations. A Review Essay

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If in the 1970s modernization theorists predicted the demise of paid domestic work, developments during the last two decades have proven them wrong. Both in the North and in the South the number of those engaged in paid domestic work has grown rapidly. In some cases, like China and India, intra-state migration is predominant. Elsewhere, in the United States, Canada, and Western-Europe, as well as in growth areas such as the Gulf States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Malaysia, the presence of large numbers of migrant domestic workers from abroad has been particularly striking. In fact, in a number of cases the growth of domestic labor as a field of employment has led to the feminization of outmigration. By the late 1990s, there were between 1.3 and 1.5 million Asian women working in the Middle East. Whereas in the 1970s women formed about 15 percent of the migrant labor force, in the mid-1990s almost 60 percent of the Filipino migrant labor force was female, and women constituted approximately 80 percent of the Sri Lankan and the Indonesian migrant labor force (Gamburd 2000:35).

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  • Annelies Moors

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