Social Reproduction and the Transnational Migration Strategies of Immigrant Families in Canada

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Guida MAN, York University, Canada
Based on empirical data from a SSHRC funded research project[i], this paper examines the migration experience of highly educated Chinese and Indian immigrant women to Canada who were professionals in their home country. In particular, the paper investigates how these immigrant women utilized transnational migration strategies to accomplish the work of social reproduction. It argues that the work of social reproduction is a gendered process, mediated by institutional policies and practices, as well as the individual woman’s agency. It demonstrates that within a household, gender ideology influences the work of social reproduction and the transnational strategies deployed to accomplish this task.

Immigrant families have been utilizing transnational practices to maintain family relationships, and to accomplish social reproduction, not only in contemporary society, and also in historical periods. For example, between 1886 and 1947, many poor Chinese men worked as indentured laborers in Canada, while their wives and children remained in China due to racialized Canadian immigration policy which barred them from entering the country. As a result, separate spheres of production and reproduction evolved in these families.

In the context of the current climate of globalization and neoliberalism, some immigrant families experience unemployment and underemployment, and downward mobility. The difficulties in procuring affordable childcare services and in juggling the contradictory demands of paid work, household work have prompted some immigrant families to resolve to transnational  strategies to accomplish the work of social reproduction, such as sending children back to their home country to be cared for by family members.


[i] The data for this paper is derived from a project entitled “Transnational Migration Trajectories of Immigrant Women Professionals in Canada: Strategies of Work and Family”, supported by a SSHRC research grant to Guida Man as Principal Investigator, and Tania Das Gupta, Kiran Mirchandani, and Roxana Ng as Co-investigators.