Researchers in North America and the Asia-Pacific region are exploring how the reorganization of domestic care work around the world is influencing migration patterns and how migration, in turn, is influencing social welfare and care.

This map depicts the migration of Asian women around the world, in response to growing demand for ccaregivers. ©Fulton Design 2014

Professor Ito Peng of the University of Toronto, who leads the international research team, explains that growing demand for caregivers in the developed north is creating a powerful incentive for women from developing countries to migrate to fill the jobs. These “care chains” – moving women from low and middle income countries to immigrant-receiving nations – are resulting in care deficits in sending countries as well as increasing inequalities between sending and receiving countries and in the receiving countries.

Until now, researchers have largely focused on the migration of healthcare workers, such as doctors and nurses, from developing to developed countries. “The kind of work we’re talking about – eldercare, child care, domestic care – has been relatively low on the radar,” says Professor Peng.

The current study builds on previous research by Peng and her collaborators. For example, in the 2001 book “Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration and Domestic Work,” Rhacel Parrenas found that children of Filipino women who migrate abroad often end up being cared for by elder sisters, grandmothers, aunts or other female relatives. “The physical, emotional and financial costs of caring for those children left behind are being absorbed by their families and communities,” says Professor Peng.

However, in another earlier study, collaborator Daniele Belanger found that the migration of Vietnamese brides to Korea brought benefits to their home communities in Vietnam. “Remittances from these brides to their families helped their economic well-being and social standing in their communities,” notes Professor Peng.

The research team is focusing on migration within the Asia-Pacific region and between it and North America. Sending and receiving countries in the two regions offer sharp cultural and institutional contrasts, yet both regions are deeply involved in the global migration of care workers. “By far, the largest migrations in terms of numbers, proportions and future prospects are happening in Asia – and I don’t just mean international migration,” says Professor Peng. “In China alone, millions of people are migrating from rural to urban areas, many of whom end up doing domestic service-type care work.”

Professor Peng hopes their research will generate information, data and analyses about the condition and migration of care workers across the globe, which could be used to develop better policies to address their issues. “I would like to see some kind of global governance structure to oversee the migration of care workers and make sure that people don’t get exploited,” she says.

For further information contact:

Professor Ito Peng
Faculty of Arts and Science
University of Toronto, Canada