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Feminization Of Migration Philippine Workers Welfare Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 5429 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Introduction and Background

In most places throughout the world, the term “migrant” conjures images of men, while the phrase, “migrants and their families” introduces women and children into the picture. Yet, statistics show that half of all migrants globally are female and studies document that women are active participants in migration, both within and between countries (Boyd, 2006).

Philippine migration started as early as 1900s during the time of American colonial rule. The first Filipinos to migrate came from Ilocos and they worked in pineapple plantations in Hawaii, agriculture in California and fish canneries in Washington and Alaska in 1920s. During 1960s, different category of Filipino workers migrated to America, Canada, and some European countries. They were the so-called professionals working as nurses, doctors, and medical technicians.

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In 1970s, Filipinos were in demand in industrialized countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Malaysia. They filled up the labor shortages in these countries and worked as construction workers, nannies, domestic workers, nurse and entertainers. The phenomenon in Philippine labor migration started during these years since large numbers of workers leave the country for employment.

However, in 1980s a different trend in Philippine labor migration has emerged called feminization of migration. (Explain why?) This means that more and more women participated in the area of labor migration. (Add further explanation) A lot of factors attributed to the proliferation of women migration. In the previous studies, women migration could be a result of poverty, globalization, and pressure from family, among others. But the most common reason of these women who wants to find better opportunities in their chosen countries of destination is poverty. To escape poverty, these women leave their work and try their luck overseas. Some of them are professionals while others are a mere high school graduates working mostly in the services sector. However, the basic question lies in their welfare and protection in the third country.

Hence, this study is conducted to identify the common issues and concerns encountered by these women and try to examine the Philippine government policy thru the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to ensure the welfare and protection of these women in their chosen country of destination. If possible, this study will try to influence the DOLE policy makers by presenting sufficient data to justify the need to formulate policies specifically for women migrant workers (if there is none).

Theoretical Framework

Several theories are presented in this section to help the readers understand or gain insights on the migration of Filipino women migrant workers. Below are some of the theories:

Feminist theory, according to Wikipidia (13 April 2009), aims to understand the nature of inequality and focuses on gender politics, power relations and sexuality. While generally providing a critique of social relations, much of feminist theory also focuses on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women’s rights, interests, and issues.

Based on the same source mentioned above, the feminist legal theory is based on the belief that the law has been instrumental women’s historical subordination. The project of feminist legal theory is twofold. First, feminist jurisprudence seeks to explain ways in which the law played a role in women’s former subordinate status. Second, feminist legal theory is dedicated to changing women’s status through a reworking of the law and its approach to gender.

One of the theories that best describes the outflow of Filipino women abroad is the theory on globalization. Globalization (Wikipedia, 11 April 2009) in its literal sense is the process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. It can be described as a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society and function together. This process is a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces. Globalization is often used to refer to economic globalization, that is, integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology.

Another theory that explains migration is the neoclassical economic theory (Sjaastad 1962; Todaro 1969). It suggests that international migration is related to the global supply and demand for labor. Nations with scarce labor supply and high demand will have high wages that pull immigrants in from nations with a surplus of labor (family.jrank.org, 2009).

The segmented labor market theory (Piore 1979) argues that First World economies are structured so as to require a certain level of immigration. This theory suggests that developed economies are dualistic, they have a primary market of secure, well remunerated work and a secondary market of low wage work. Segmented labor market theory argues that immigrants are recruited to fill these jobs that are necessary for the overall economy to function but are avoided by the native-born population because of the poor working conditions associated with the secondary labor market (family.jrank.org, 2009).

World systems theory (Sassen 1988) argues that international migration is a by-product of global capitalism. Contemporary patterns of international migration tend to be from the periphery (poor nations) to the core (rich nations) because factors associated with industrial development in the First World generated structural economic problems, and thus push factors, in the Third World (family.jrank.org, 2009).

In the Todaro-Harris model, the decision to migrate is largely determined by the individual’s expectation of earning a higher income, with expected income being defined as actual urban income multiplied by the probability of obtaining employment (Ullah, 2004).

Conceptual Framework

Figure 1 presents the research paradigm of the study.

Figure 1: Research Design

As shown in the diagram, Filipino women migrant workers are also experiencing some issues and concerns in their chosen country of destination. This study will find out how these issues and concerns will affect the formulation of Philippine labor policy.

Statement of the Problem

This study deals on the Feminization of the Philippine Labor Migation as well as its implications on the country’s policy on workers’ welfare and protection.

Specifically, this study aims to answer the following questions:

What is the personal profile of the respondents based on the following:


Marital Status

Level of Education

Employment Status

Nature of Employment

Length of Contract

What are the common issues and concerns encountered by migrant women in the receiving/destination countries?

What are the roles of the government particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in ensuring the well-being of the Filipino women migrant workers?

What is/are the policy/ies of DOLE in dealing with the migration of women in terms of:



With reference to question 2, what are the implications of these common issues and concerns in the formulations of labor policy/ies directed to Filipino migrant women?


The following hypotheses were considered by the researcher in the study:

The common issues and concerns encountered by migrant women in the receiving/destination countries are not significant.

The roles of the government particularly DOLE are minimal in ensuring the well-being of the Filipino women migrant workers.

The policy/ies of DOLE in dealing with the migration of women are not significant in terms of:



With reference to question 2, the implications of these common issues and concerns are not significant in the formulations of labor policy/ies directed to Filipino migrant women.

Significance of the Study

Since the onset of the phenomenon called feminization of Philippine labor migration in 1980s, a number of researchers attempted to determine the factors that trigger Filipino women from leaving the country in search for a better opportunity abroad. This study will try to delve into the implications of the common issues and concerns encountered by migrant women in the destination countries to the formulation of labor policies/programs by DOLE.

Further, the conduct of this study will acquaint the public on the difficulties encountered by the Filipino women migrant workers abroad. This will also serve as a guide to the Philippine government thru DOLE to formulate policies addressing specifically the issues and concerns of the women migrant workers.

Scope and Delimitation of the Study

This study focuses on the common issues and concerns faced by Filipino migrant women and its implications on the formulation of government policies to ensure their welfare and protection.

The respondents shall be the women migrant workers employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). In 2008, KSA was the top destination country for newly hires Filipino migrant workers with a deployment of 76,148. Of this figure, 24,508 were female workers. To save time and money, Slovin’s formula shall be employed to determine the sample size of the population.

Particularly, this study shall concentrate gathering data in Alkhobar, KSA wherein one of the two POLOs in Saudi Arabia is located. Sets of questionnaire shall be disseminated to the respondents with the assistance of POLO-Alkhobar. The distribution of questionnaires shall be done in the POLO office wherein the respondents paid visit to request for assistance, asking for an advice and other grievances among others.

The researcher shall also use interview method with the concerned government officials, non-government organizations (NGOs), private sectors and internet to facilitate the conduct of the thesis.

Definition of Terms

The following are the common terms used in this study. The terms were defined according to the context of the study. Some terms were taken from the DOLE and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Glossary for Migration:

Country of Origin

A country where the women workers permanently resides.

Feminization of Migration

The increasing participation of women in the field of labor migration.

Labour Migration

The movement of persons from their home state to another for the purpose of employment.

Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)

The POLO serves as the DOLE’s overseas operating arm in the implementation of Philippine labor policies and programs for the protection and promotion of the welfare and interests of Filipinos working abroad.

Push-Pull Factors

Push factors are the reasons that trigger the workers to migrate in their chosen country of destination whereas pull factors are the attracting forces that lead them to migrate.

Receiving Country

The chosen country of destination by the worker.



This chapter presented the different literature and studies conducted by different authors both local and foreign to support the concepts and theories of the phenomenon called Feminization of Labor Migration.

Related Literature

In a study entitled, The Feminization of Philippine Migration in Europe (05 March 2009), the Philippine Migration is brought about by a combination of socio-cultural, economic, and political factors in the Philippines that push Philippine women to migrate, as well as factors in Europe that pull them to immigrate. The economic crisis in the Philippines has led to an increasing unemployment and underemployment, with practically “no work available” within the country.

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According to that same study, it was mentioned that as migrant workers, Filipinas experience a host of problems related to their employment situations. Because they are women, who come from the so called “Third World”, they are allowed to work only in the lowest job categories. They are particularly vulnerable to various forms of exploitative labour practices, being employed in jobs, which make use of their highly skilled and qualified labour at very low cost.

The fact is women migrants are indeed subject to various forms of abuse when they work overseas – they are paid low wages if they are paid at all, they work in terrible working conditions, and are subject to various forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence – calling for necessary interventions on the part of the state (Rodriguez, 1995).

With reference to the study entitled The Feminization of Philippine Migration in Europe (05 March 2009), it was stated that the withholding of wages and documents such as passports, low pay, long working hours, the lack of opportunities for meaningful career advancement, and the lack of work benefits and job security, are only some of the problems, which Filipina migrant workers experience in the work place.

Many believed labor export exposed women migrants to harsh forms of sexual violence. Others believed that the out-migration of women was weakening the Philippines’ social and moral fabric and still others, believed that the out-migration of Filipinas as domestic workers and entertainers threatened the Philippine state’s subject status on the world stage (Rodriguez, 1995).

The feminization of Philippine overseas labor migration, which had been male-dominated until the 1980s, belies the failure of women’s empowerment in society. The increasing out-migration of women indicates a decline, or continuing limitation, in the share of work available to women in the production process; employment opportunities remain restricted and income insufficient. The majority of female OFWs are still in “traditional” reproductive work such as domestic work and cultural entertainment, health care and nursing, where the pay is low and the nature of the work involves a higher exposure to physical, sexual and other abuse. This in turn underscores the international division of labor, in which the Third World, or the South, does the labor-intensive and lower-paid work. It also demonstrates a persistent gendered division of labor at the global level, with the South taking on the menial aspects of reproductive work, which are thereby “feminized,” secondary, subservient, and inferior to the “masculine,” dominant North (de Guzman, 2003).

The increased understanding of the situation of migrant women should provide the basis for the formulation of policies and programmes that promote their equality with migrant men and that safeguard their well-being (UN, 2004).

Related Studies

For a long time, the typical migrant has been viewed as male and until 3 decades ago, female migration was generally overlooked. Since the middle of the 1970s, there has been a growing interest in women’s immigration, first with the increase in family reunification, especially in Europe and from the 1980s, until today, the growing recruitment of migrant women for labour market needs especially in service (Casas and Garson, 2005).

In recent years the term feminization of migration has become commonplace, even entering the public domain through media reports (INSTRAW, 2007).

According to Nancy V. Yanger, in her study on the Feminization of Migration (2006), there has been a change in the international migration patterns of women: more are moving from one country to another on their own than to join their husbands or other family members. This feminization of migration raises several key policy concerns about women’s security and human rights in sending and destination countries.

About half of all migrant workers are now women (IOM, 2008), with more women migrating independently and as main income earners rather than accompanying male relatives (Martin, 2005).

Insofar as men are increasingly unable to fulfill their traditional roles as economic providers to their families, and the demand for female caregivers continue to rise in the industrial countries, the pressure on women to seek new survival strategies for their families will continue to fuel the increase of female migrants worldwide (INSTRAW, 2007).

The feminization of migration had also produced specifically female forms of migration, such as the commercialized migration of domestic workers and caregivers, the migration and trafficking of women for the sex industry and the organized migration of women for marriage (UNESC, 2006).

Women are often recruited internationally to do reproductive work in other people’s houses or for service sector jobs such as waitressing or entertainment that are poorly and marked by high instability and turnover. Many of these jobs are unregulated because they are of borderline legality (such as sex work) or because they are not included in the scope of the destination country’s labor laws, which primarily cover productive work. The unregulated nature of reproductive work, which allows no recourse through the legal system, places many women migrants at risk of exploitation in the form of low wages, poor working conditions, or physical or sexual abuse (Yinger, 2006).

Perhaps the most notable feature of female migration is the extent to which it is founded upon the continued reproduction and exploitation of gender inequalities by global capitalism. For the most part, female labor migrants perform women’s work as nannies, maids and sex workers – the worst possible occupational niches in terms of remuneration, working conditions, legal protections and social recognition. In this way, gender acts as a basic organizing principle of labor markets in destination countries, reproducing and reinforcing pre-existing gender patterns that oppress women. But it is not only women who perform these jobs, but women of a particular race, class, ethnicity and/or nationality – i.e. gender cross-cuts with other forms of oppression to facilitate the economic exploitation of women migrants and these relegation to a servile (maids) and/or despised (sex workers) status (INSTRAW, 2007).

In the north, the growing involvement of immigrant women in paid work is mainly the result of an increase in the demand for labour in unskilled and poorly paid jobs in the service sectors in immigrant-receiving countries. Domestic service, hotels and restaurants and personal care are all sectors that have large recourse to foreign migration labour and the development of exclusively female migration flows (Sassen, 1993). Immigrant women work in those jobs that are abandoned by the receiving country nationals (Casas and Garson, 2005).

INSTRAW’s Columbia case study found a significant number of middle-age women whose main reason to migrate was not related to economic or family reasons (as their children are already grown up) but rather to the expectation that new relationship opportunities are easier to come by in Spain than in Columbia, where women their age have a difficult time finding new sexual partners. Both the Columbian and the Dominican case studies found that unsatisfactory marriages factored in many women’s decision to migrate, as it was easier for them to end the relationship after they had moved to another country (which contradicts the common assumption that the migration itself is the cause of the marital break-up) (INSTRAW, 2007).

The studies have revealed the 2 dimensions of the role played by immigrant women in the economies of both their sending and their receiving societies: an active role on the labour market, sending remittances, becoming heads of household, etc. Certain academic and political circles would see to have established a link between feminization of migration, the active role of women as economic and development agents and empowerment. It is important to note that even though immigrant women participate in the economics of their countries of origin and destination, by sending large remittances and maintaining transnational households, this role as social and economic agents does not necessarily imply an increase in their status (empowerment) (Casas and Garson, 2005).

As INSTRAW’s (2007) (and many other) case studies show, by allowing women to become economic providers for themselves and for their transnational families, migration can increase their self-esteem, personal autonomy and status. Migrant women often measure their achievements only in terms of the benefits they are able to provide to their families and they are praised by others in similar terms.

Migration can provide a vital source of income for migrant women and their families, and earn them increased autonomy, self-confidence and social status (IOM, 2008).

In a study conducted by Monica Boyd entitled Women in International Migration: The Context of Exit and Entry for Empowerment and Exploitation (2006), women migrant workers who are admitted legally but temporarily, may be poorly protected by existing labor law in destination countries and they may have little recourse to state protection if abuse occurs.

In countries of origin and also in countries of destination (IOM, 2008), female migrants may be victims of negative attitudes about women working at all, attitudes that affect their rights to leave the country without permission to receive further education or training and to engage in certain occupations. Globally, the International Labour Office (ILO) reports that the most frequently encountered issues regarding the working conditions of women migrant workers are low remuneration, heavy workloads with long working hours and inadequate rest periods, limited training facilities and poor career development. In some countries such workers also lack freedom of movement. Women migrant workers’ jobs are normally located very low on the occupational ladder and usually not, or only inadequately covered by labour legislation or other social security or welfare provisions (ILO, 1999).

The broader theoretical approach to the analysis of networks as a factor behind migration now extends to the role of women in migration. A further factor that favours the increased visibility of female immigration is that migration is no longer considered to be the result of an individual decision but rather is best viewed as an integral part of family and community strategies (Stark, 1984) (Casas and Garson, 2005).

Women migrate to work abroad in response to gender-specific labour demand in countries of destination that reflects existing values, norms, stereotypes and hierarchies based on gender. Thus, although laws regarding the admission of migrant workers are generally gender neutral, the demand for domestic workers, nurses, and entertainers focuses on the recruitment of migrant women. Moreover, in countries of origin as well, female labour supply is the result of gender norms and stereotypes that gear women to certain traditionally female occupations. Recruitment intermediaries, whether private or official, also contribute to reinforce gender segregation in the labour market (UN, 2004).

Women have always been present in migratory flows, traditionally as spouses, daughters, or dependents of male migrants. Nowadays women are increasingly migrating as the main economic providers for their households – meaning that they migrate autonomously as breadwinners – a contribution that has served to increase their visibility within migratory flows (UN-INSTRAW, 2006).

The global demand for migrant labour now prioritizes women’s specific skills and traditional roles, such that: a) paid domestic work is increasingly performed by women who leave their own countries, communities and often their families; b) domestic service draws not only women from poor socio-economic classes but also women of relatively high status in their own countries; and c) the development of service-based economies in post-industrial nations favours the international migration of women workers. In the developed world, the combination of women’s increased participation in the labour force and the failure to develop family-friendly labour policies and child, elderly, and disabled care options have lead to a strong demand for migrant women workers. Migrant women are thus a central support system for women’s freedom in the developed world – and they make a contribution that is under-recognized and undervalued (UN-INSTRAW, 2006).

The increasing feminization of the Philippine labor export industry suggests that women’s desperation to overcome the hardships brought about by worsening socioeconomic conditions in the country is the major push factor that drives them to leave, to bet on a brighter future abroad – while turning almost a blind eye to the risks involved (Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, 2004).

The feminization of international labor migration in the Philippines can be seen from several vantage points. For one, it can be seen as an extension of the freedom of mobility afforded Filipino women. For another, the involvement of Filipino women in international labor migration can be seen as a response to the demand for women workers in the more developed countries. The demand for women migrant workers also came at a time when the demand for male workers was slowing down in the Middle East, which was the major destination of migrant workers in the 1970s and the early 1980s. Countries of origin such as the Philippines were poised to respond to the demand for women migrant workers given the experience they had gained with large-scale overseas employment in the 1970s (Guerrero, et. al, 2001).

Although women give different reasons why they consider overseas employment as a work option, these reasons invariably boil down to economic or financial considerations. Migrant workers mention the following specific or immediate reasons: “to get a job”, “to support family needs”, “to send siblings and children to school”, “to pay for medical treatment of parents”, “to pay debts” (Villalba, 2002).

Compared to other countries of origin, the Philippines has, in fact, instituted various measures to ensure the protection of women migrant workers. Early on and several times thereafter, the government had instituted several bans on the deployment of domestic workers (1982 for Saudi Arabia, which did not push through; a general ban in 1987 and the gradual lifting of the ban as better conditions obtain in the receiving countries; ban for Singapore in 1995) and in the deployment of entertainers to Japan in 1991, in the hopes of stopping the migration of women migrant workers. Bans, as our experience showed, do not work; instead they only lead to irregular migrations, which puts women migrant workers in greater danger. Under the circumstances, the government instituted various approaches to protect women migrant workers (Guerrero, et. al, 2001).

Republic Act No. 8042 (POEA, 1996) popularly known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 is an act instituting the policies of overseas employment and establish a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress, and for the other purposes. Specifically, Section 2, paragraph d (Declaration of Policies) stated, “The State affirms the fundamental equality before the law of women and men and the significant role of women in nation-building. Recognizing the contribution of overseas migrant women workers and their particular vulnerabilities, the State shall apply gender sensitive criteria in the formulation and implementation of policies and programs affecting migrant workers and the composition of bodies tasked for the welfare of migrant workers.

In addition, Section 4 (Deployment of Migrant Workers) declared, “The State shall deploy overseas Filipino workers only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected. The government recognizes any of the following as a guarantee on the part of the receiving country for the protection and the rights of overseas Filipino workers: a) it has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of migrant workers; b) it is a signatory to multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of migrant workers; c) it has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the government protecting the rights of overseas Filipino workers; and d) it is taking positive, concrete measures to protect the rights of migrant worker (POEA, 1996).

Implications of the Reviewed Studies and Literature to the Present Study

The reviewed studies and literature were presented to support or refute the theories and concept employed in the study. Further, it is one way to appreciate the reasons behind the out-migration of women since 1980s and the risks and hardships involved.



Method of Research

The researcher shall made use of the descriptive research. According to Calderon and Gonzales (1993), descriptive research is a purposive process of gathering, analyzing and tabulating data about prevailing conditions, practices, beliefs, processes, trends and cause-effect relationships and then making adequate and accurate interpretation about such data with or without the aid of statistical method.

Population and Sampling

The respondents in this study shall be the Filipino women migrant workers employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as professionals and household workers among others. To determine the sample size of the population, the researcher shall employ the Slovin’s formula. In 2008, 24,508 women workers were deployed in KSA. Using Slovin’s formula, the sample size of 24,508 is 100 respondents. Alkhobar, KSA is the preferred place for the conduct of this study wherein one of the two POLOs in Saudi Arabia is located.

The researcher shall made use of the Convenience Sampling in survey questionnaire in the selection of respondents and Purposive Sampling Technique in identifying the interviewees.

Data Gathering Tool/s

Primary and secondary instruments shall be utilized to aid the researcher in gathering data/information. A questionnaire shall be constructed that details the profile of the female migrant workers as well as the common issues and concerns encountered by Filipino women migrant workers. Webster Dictionary defines questionnaire as a set of questions for obtaining statistically useful or personal information from an individual. The questionnaire shall be presented in a question-answer format with suitable answers so that the respondents can easily indicate their response by placing a checkmark on the space corresponding to the answer.

The researcher shall also conduct interviews on DOLE officials, non-government organizations, and Filipino women migrant workers here and abroad to solicit views necessary for the conduct of this study. Books and electronic data/information were also sourced out in this study.

Data Gathering Procedures

Questionnaires thru the assistance of POLO-Alkhobar shall be disseminated to the respondents by June until August 2009. Interviews shall follow after the result of the survey is finalized.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) deployment statistics shall be utilized to identify the Filipino women migrant workers deployed from 1980s to 2008. The same data shall be used to also identify the sector dominated by Filipino women mi


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