The Permanent Crisis of Migrant Labor - Gender Differences in the Crisis Perception of Latin American Labor Migrants in Spain

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Johanna NEUHAUSER, Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), Germany
It is widely assumed that the working and living conditions of migrants from non-EU countries in Europe are particularly affected by economic fluctuations. Migrant workers who are primarily integrated into the lowest and hardest-hit segments of the labor market are often the first to lose their jobs. In this paper, the impact of the economic crisis on labor migration is investigated from the perspective of Latin American labor migrants in Spain. Thereby, I draw on the qualitative analysis of group discussions and individual interviews with labor migrants in the working areas in which a large proportion of migrants are employed in Spain, which is the construction sector, paid domestic labor, and the hospitality sector. These sectors are not only differently hit by the economic crisis, but also largely segregated by gender. Thus, data on the Spanish labor market reveals a significant gender unevenness in the impact of the economic crisis on labor migrants, as for example the unemployment caused by the crisis had a greater effect on male than on female migrant labor. In the interviews, these gender differences are reflected in the different perceptions of the crisis by migrant men and women. While the male interviewees in the construction sector emphasize the drastic change brought about by 2008, the female paid domestic workers consider precariousness as an essential characteristic and permanent condition of their labor. By drawing on approaches from Feminist Political Economy and Critical Migration Studies, the crisis perceptions of the interviewed migrants are related to the broader picture of the political economy of migrant labor in capitalism. I argue that by contrasting female and male migrants’ experiences, it becomes particularly visible that contemporary migrant realities are conditioned by a ‘permanent crisis’.