345.4 The reproductive labour of care: A case study of migrant women working in Italy

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 3:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Laura STEFANELLI , REDTAC, Université de Montréal, Canada, Montréal, QC, Canada
The feminization of immigration for the domestic sector is not a new phenomenon in Western European countries. However, in Italy, a relatively “new immigration country” in the Mediterranean basin, the characteristics of women involved in the migration process are new.

This paper examines the social, cultural and economic structural forces that promote the “ideology of women’s domesticity” for reproductive labour, which encourages the migratory processes of women. By understanding the status of migrant women of different ethnicities, classes and origins, it illustrates how care and domestic work shapes inequality and vulnerability.

Moreover, it reveals how the social, economic and political transformations that have occurred in Southern Europe, and in Italy in particular, have helped to create both a demand for and a supply of female (im)migrant care workers, while immigration policies have sustained the immigration flows through quota slots for entry. Thus, the analysis of domestic work is focused on the nexus of gender, care and migration processes.

In this paper, I argue that to explain the living and working conditions of domestic workers in Italy and the “transnational care chains” that have occurred in the families left behind, one has to look at simultaneous structural factors of the Italian welfare state, gender relations, the structure of the labour market and the international division of reproductive labour. By sustaining a “cheap” care system through foreign labour forces, the Italian welfare state relies on the availability of migrant women to work as caregivers.