Re-Thinking Defamilialization in the Light of Global Care Chains and the Transnational Circulation of Care

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Florence DEGAVRE, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Laura MERLA, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
The defamilialization concept has been abundantly mobilized for the study of the gendered character of welfare States and, in particular, their action to diminish the burden of child and elder care that heavily rests on women's shoulders. But this theory needs to be revisited in the light of the growing importance of transnational mobilities of care, including the migration of care workers and the transnational « circulation of care » (Baldassar & Merla 2014) between these migrants and their geographically distant relatives. This paper aims at revisiting the defamilialization theory in order to better acknowledge the profound transformations within contemporary welfare states in relation with these transnational mobilities of care. This is done through the identification of the points of intersection between the circulation of care and the defamilialization theory. Based on two case studies of domestic migrant workers in Belgium, the paper highlights the importance of migration within European care regimes and questions the defamilialization of migrant care workers themselves. These women are indeed considered by policy makers and employers as ‘defamilialized' through the migration process, an illusion that partly justifies their exclusion from defamilialization schemes. This is particularly problematic in particular for migrant women who continue to care and provide for relatives living in highly familialistic states. These women are indeed located at the intersection between the care and social protection regimes of their home and host societies. This leads us to interrogate the conditions of exercice of their participation in the transnational circulation of care with their distant relatives, and ask in particular if transnational family solidarity necessarily involves the hyper-familialization of female migrants. We conclude with an exploration of possible directions for the transformation of care and social protection regimes and migratory policies.