International Migration and the Restructuring of Gender Asymmetries: Continuity and Change among Filipino Labor Migrants in Rome

Citation:

Tacoli, Cecilia. 1999. "International Migration and the Restructuring of Gender Asymmetries: Continuity and Change among Filipino Labor Migrants in Rome." International Migration Review 33 (3): 658-682.

Author: Cecilia Tacoli

Abstract:

This article examines the different factors which may explain gender-selectivity among Filipino labor migrants in Rome, where women are around 70 percent of this nationality group.  Following the analysis of labor demand in the domestic service sector, it explores  supply aspects, ranging from economic conditions within the Philippine labor market to noneconomic constraints, such as ideologies and expectations of gender. The research findings show that migrant women's commitments and obligations toward their households in home area are generally stronger than those of their male counterparts.  However, spatial distance and increased financial independence may provide some women with the opportunity to pursue 'self-interested' goals while at the same time keeping within the  'altruistic' role dictated by normative gender roles. Important elements affecting women's increased autonomy are life course paths, households’ developmental cycle, class and migration form.

Keywords: international migration, labor migration, gender transformation, employment, gender-selectivity, gender roles

Annotation:

  • In the 1970s, labor migrants, primarily from Third World nations, began moving to Southern European countries in search of work. In her article, Tacoli explores the reasons for the predominance of women within the Filipino immigrant population in Rome. In her analysis, she examines “the role of migrant networks in providing access to specific employment opportunities, employers’ perceptions of gender and ethnicity, and the impact of Italian immigration policies on the labor market” (659). In her first section, “Gender and Migration Theories,” Tacoli writes that the study of gendered migration is a recent one. Gender-selective migration has come as a result of the incorporation of females into low-paying, low-skilled occupations; however, this does not explain why some women migrate while others do not (i.e. why migrants to Rome from the Philippines are predominately female while migrants from other countries include very few women). Tacoli characterizes migration as a “socially-embedded process” (662), which depends largely on the household as a determinant of gender roles in the labor market. Additionally, the Filipino government has encouraged international labor migration, which may have had a greater impact on the decision of women to work abroad.
  • When Filipino migration to Italy began in the 1970s, the migrant community was primarily composed of women working as household helpers. One factor accounting for women’s domination of the migrant labor force in Italy is the fact that women are more likely to be employed full-time (often as live-in nannies), whereas men oftentimes work part-time. Demand for live-in work has been greater than that for part-time work in Italy, so migrant women have been employed to a higher degree than their male counterparts.Tacoli proceeds to examine the reasons for labor migration from the Philippines to Rome. 
  • These reasons range from the desire for higher wages to the desire to experience a westernized lifestyle. The majority of the women who have migrated to Rome are widowed or separated women who were not previously employed, signaling their desperation for employment and the difficulty for women to find jobs in the Philippines. Because of the high cost of moving from the Philippines to Italy, however, those migrating to Italy have tended to be the more affluent members of the Filipino population, which would suggest that survival is not the primary motivator for migration. Surveys indicate that social mobility is actually a more commonly cited reason for moving. Because divorce is prohibited in Filipino society, married women often move as a way to escape unhappy marriages and affirm their independence. In her analysis of intrahousehold relations (p. 671), Tacoli questions whether the decision to migrate is made by the migrants themselves or by other members of the family unit. Findings show that daughters are more likely than sons to migrate as a result of parental pressure, indicating the emphasis placed on duty towards relatives in Filipino culture, particularly among women. Pressure to marry also presents a unique incentive for women to emigrate; as Filipino women seek education abroad, they increase their prospects for marriage upon returning home. Thus, migration allows women to simultaneously pursue the own freedom of movement while conforming to altruistic expectations and familial loyalty. International migrations offers them the possibility to combine self-interest (freedom from the conventional gender roles ingrained in Filipino society) with self-sacrifice (working abroad in order to make more money for their families back home). 

Topics: Class, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Southern Europe Countries: Italy, Philippines

Year: 1999

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.