Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy

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Macmillan, 2004 - Business & Economics - 328 pages
2 Reviews
In a remarkable pairing, two renowned social critics offer a groundbreaking anthology that examines the unexplored consequences of globalization on the lives of women worldwide. Women are moving around the globe as never before. But for every female executive racking up frequent flier miles, there are multitudes of women whose journeys go unnoticed. Each year, millions leave Mexico, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and other third world countries to work in the homes, nurseries, and brothels of the first world. This broad-scale transfer of labor associated with women's traditional roles results in an odd displacement. In the new global calculus, the female energy that flows to wealthy countries is subtracted from poor ones, often to the detriment of the families left behind. The migrant nanny-- or cleaning woman, nursing care attendant, maid-- eases a "care deficit" in rich countries, while her absence creates a "care deficit" back home. Confronting a range of topics, from the fate of Vietnamese mail-order brides to the importation of Mexican nannies in Los Angeles and the selling of Thai girls to Japanese brothels, "Global woman offers an unprecedented look at a world shaped by mass migration and economic exchange on an ever-increasing scale. In fifteen vivid essays-- of which only four have been previously published-- by a diverse and distinguished group of writers, collected and introduced by best selling authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, this anthology reveals a new era in which the main resource extracted from the third world is no longer gold or silver, but love.

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User Review  - Janine2011 - LibraryThing

This book takes on a subject most of us choose to ignore. The invisible work of nannies, domestics and sex workers... most of whom travel around the world for low paying, no benefit jobs. Most are ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Meggo - LibraryThing

An interesting book based on a series of scholarly essays about women's conditions in the global economy - largely as international domestic help, but also as nannies and sex workers. The length of ... Read full review

Selected pages


Love and Gold
The Nanny Dilemma
Children and Transnational Families in the New Global Economy
Blowups and Other Unhappy Endings
Caring for the Independent Person
Maid to Order
Just Another Job? The Commodification of Domestic Labor
Breadwinner No More
Because She Looks like a Child
Highly Educated Overseas Brides and LowWage US Husbands
Global Cities and Survival Circuits
Maps and Chart
Activist Organizations

Household Rules and Relations
Migrant Maids and ModernDay Slavery
Sex Tourism as a Steppingstone to International Migration
Migrant Domestics and Their Taiwanese Employers Across Generations
The Contributors

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About the author (2004)

Global Woman

Whether they know it or not, Clinton and Princela Bautista, two children growing up in a small town in the Philippines apart from their two migrant parents, are the recipients of an international pledge. It says that a child "should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding," and "not be separated from his or her parents against their will ..." Part of Article 9 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959), these words stand now as a fairy-tale ideal, the promise of a shield between children and the costs of globalization. At the moment this shield is not protecting the Bautista family from those human costs. In the basement bedroom of her employer''s home in Washington, D.C., Rowena Bautista keeps four pictures on her dresser: two of her own children, back in Camiling, a Philippine farming village, and two of children she has cared for as a nanny in the United States. The pictures of her own children, Clinton and Princela, are from five years ago. As she recently told Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank, the recent photos "remind me how much I''ve missed."1 She has missed the last two Christmases,and on her last visit home, her son Clinton, now eight, refused to touch his mother. "Why," he asked, "did you come back?" The daughter of a teacher and an engineer, Rowena Bautista worked three years toward an engineering degree before she quit and went abroad for work and adventure. A few years later, during her travels, she fell in love with a Ghanaian construction worker, had two children with him, and returned to the Philippines with them. Unable to find a job in the Philippines, the father of her children went to Korea in search of work and, over time, he faded from his children''s lives. Rowena again traveled north, joining the growing ranks of Third World mothers who work abroad for long periods of time because they cannot make ends meet at home. She left her children with her mother, hired a nanny to help out at home, and flew to Washington, D.C., where she took a job as a nanny for the same pay that a small-town doctor would make in the Philippines. Of the 792,000 legal household workers in the United States, 40 percent were born abroad, like Rowena. Of Filipino migrants, 70 percent, like Rowena, are women. Rowena calls Noa, the American child she tends, "my baby." One of Noa''s first words was "Ena," short for Rowena. And Noa has started babbling in Tagalog, the language Rowena spoke in the Philippines. Rowena lifts Noa from her crib mornings at 7:00 A.M., takes her to the library, pushes her on the swing at the playground, and curls up with her for naps. As Rowena explained to Frank, "I give Noa what I can''t give to my children." In turn, the American child gives Rowena what she doesn''t get at home. As Rowena puts it, "She makes me feel like a mother." Rowena''s own children live in a four-bedroom house with her parents and twelve other family members--eight of them children, some of whom also have mothers who work abroad. The central figure in the children''s lives--the person they call "Mama"--is Grandma, Rowena''s mother. But Grandma works surprisingly long hours as a teacher--from 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. As Rowena tells her story to Frank, she says little about her father, the children''s grandfather (men are discouraged from participating actively in child rearing in the Philippines). And Rowena''s father is not much involved with his grandchildren. So, she has hired Anna de la Cruz, who arrives daily at 8:00 A.M. to cook, clean, and care for the children. Meanwhile,Anna de la Cruz leaves her teenage son in the care of her eighty-year-old mother-in-law. Rowena''s life reflects an important and growing global trend: the importation of care and love from poor countries to rich ones. For some time now, promising and highly trained professionals have been moving from ill-equipped hospitals, impoverished schools, antiquated banks, and other beleaguered workplaces of the Third World to better opportunities and higher pay in the First World. As rich nations become richer and poor nations become poorer, this one-way flow of talent and training continuously widens the gap between the two. But in addition to this brain drain, there is now a parallel but more hidden and wrenching trend, as women who normally care for the young, the old, and the sick in their own poor countries move to care for the young, the old, and the sick in rich countries, whether as maids and nannies or as day-care and nursing-home aides. It''s a care drain. The movement of care workers from south to north is not altogether new. What is unprecedented, however, is the scope and speed of women''s migration to these jobs. Many factors contribute to the growing feminization of migration. One is the growing split between the global rich and poor. In 1949 Harry S. Truman declared in his inaugural speech that the Southern Hemisphere--encompassing the postcolonial nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America--was underdeveloped, and that it was the role of the north to help the south "catch up." But in the years since then, the gap between north and south has only widened. In 1960, for example, the nations of the north were twenty times richer than those of the south. By 1980, that gap had more than doubled, and the north was forty-six times richer than the south. In fact, according to a United Nations Development Program study, sixty countries are worse off in 1999 than they were in 1980.2 Multinational corporations are the "muscle and brains" behind the new global system with its growing inequality, as William Greider points out, and the 500 largest such corporations (168 in Europe, 157 in the United States, and 119 in Japan) have in the last twenty years increased their sales sevenfold.3 As a result of this polarization, the middle class of the Third World now earns less than the poor of the First World. Before the domestic workers Rhacel Parreñas interviewed in the 1990s migrated from thePhilippines to the United States and Italy, they had averaged $176 a month, often as teachers, nurses, and administrative and clerical workers. But by doing less skilled--though no less difficult--work as nannies, maids, and care-service workers, they can earn $200 a month in Singapore, $410 a month in Hong Kong, $700 a month in Italy, or $1,400 a month in Los Angeles. To take one example, as a fifth-grade dropout in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a woman could earn $30 a month plus room and board as a housemaid, or she could earn $30 a month as a salesgirl in a shop, without food or lodging. But as a nanny in Athens she could earn $500 a month, plus room and board. The remittances these women send home provide food and shelter for their families and often a nest egg with which to start a small business. Of the $750 Rowena Bautista earns each month in the United States, she mails $400 home for her children''s food, clothes, and schooling, and $50 to Anna de la Cruz, who shares some of that with her mother-in-law and her children. As Rowena''s story demonstrates, one way to respond to the gap between rich and poor countries is to close it privately--by moving to a better paying job. Even as the gap between the globe''s rich and poor grows wider, the globe itself--its capital, cultural images, consumer tastes, and peoples--becomes more integrated. Thanks to the spread of Western, and especially American, movies and television programs, the people of the poor south now know a great deal about the rich north. But what they learn about the north is what people have, in what often seems like a material striptease. Certainly, rising inequality and the lure of northern prosperity have contributed to what Stephen Castles and Mark Miller call a "globalization of migration."4 For men and women alike, migration has become a private solution to a public problem. Since 1945 and especially since the mid-1980s, a small but growing proportion of the world''s population is migrating. They come from and go to more different countries. Migration is by no means an inexorable process, but as Castles and Miller observe, "migrations are growing in volume in all major regions at the present time."5 The International Organization for Migration estimates that 120 million people moved from one country to another, legally or illegally, in 1994. Of this group, about 2 percent of the world''s population, 15 to 23 million are refugees and asylumseekers. Of the rest, some move to join family members who have previously migrated. But most move to find work. As a number of studies show, most migration takes place through personal contact with networks of migrants composed of relatives and friends and relatives and friends of relatives and friends. One migrant inducts another. Whole networks and neighborhoods leave to work abroad, bringing back stories, money, know-how, and contacts. Just as men form networks along which information about jobs are passed, so one domestic worker in New York, Dubai, or Paris passes on information to female relatives or friends about how to arrange papers, travel, find a job, and settle. Today, half of all the world''s migrants are women. In Sri Lanka, one out of every ten citizens--a majority of them women--works abroad. That figure excludes returnees who have worked abroad in the past. As Castles and Miller explain: Women play an increasing role in all regions and all types of migration. In the past, most labor migrations and many refugee movements were male