Gendered Political Economy and the Politics of Migrant Worker Rights: The View from South-East Asia.


Elias, Juanita. 2010. “Gendered Political Economy and the Politics of Migrant Worker Rights: The View from South-East Asia.” Australian Journal of International Affairs 64 (1): 70–85.

Author: Juanita Elias


Focusing on the South-East Asian region and looking specifically at activism around the position of migrant domestic workers in the region, this article seeks to evaluate why migrant activist organisations appear to have had, at best, modest influence on gendering the International Labour Organization's approach to labour rights. The author argues that this is largely due to how dominant understandings of labour rights have neglected the significance of social relations of reproduction (i.e. those ‘care-related’ activities associated with the household) to the functioning of the labour market. Furthermore, a transnationalisation of social relations of reproduction is manifested in the increased feminisation of labour migration in the region and this highlights further problems with dominant labour rights perspectives that remain largely state-centric in their approach. The significance of South-East Asian states in promoting localised regimes of citizenship/immigration and industrial relations greatly limits the ability of activist groups to claim and utilise the language of human rights. Nonetheless, the article argues that a concern with the human rights of female migrants can potentially destabilise dominant understandings of labour and human rights. More generally, the article seeks to demonstrate the insights that a critical feminist human rights approach can bring to studies of work and employment within international political economy.

Topics: Citizenship, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Feminisms, Gender, Livelihoods, Political Economies, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia

Year: 2010

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