Domestic Workers As Agents for Development? the Migration-Development Nexus Debate Revisited Though the Decent Work Agenda

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Nicola PIPER , The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Sohoon LEE , Sociology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
At the global and regional level, the current policy discussion of international migration is dominated by a revived interest in the linkages between migration and development. To date, this debate has left out certain forms of migration and alternative understandings of development, and remained especially unfavourable to particular forms of migration that women undergo. Despite the evidence that domestic workers are numerous and that domestic work is increasingly an important source of waged employment for women, domestic work is often specifically excluded from national labour instruments such as the labour standards or the minimum wages mechanisms in many countries in Asia. Moreover, many migration regimes purposely exclude domestic workers from accessing rights that other labour or skilled migrants in the country are entitled to. With growing interest in return migration and its relationship to development, there have been efforts to place domestic workers ‘back’ on the trajectories of the ‘productive’ economy, especially in the form of entrepreneurial programs and the teaching of return migrant women to use their remittances money productively by becoming petite entrepreneurs. Common failures of such programs requires us to question the fundamental bias in creating such programs and the placing of emphasis on productive labour, instead of re-examining the importance of reproductive labour in development.

This paper will provide a systematic deliberation on the meaning of decent work for non-industrial, reproductive work, focusing on fair wages, working conditions and industrial relations. Its overall objective is to trace discursive and research frameworks around gender and labour migration from a development perspective to test the place of domestic work within it and to prompt greater attention needing to be paid by development studies to the realm of reproductive work. We will base this on the specific experience of domestic worker migration in Southeast Asia.