Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, Metropolitan Books, Holt & Co, 2002.
Most of us are well aware of the patterns of illegal immigration which bring numerous undocumented workers to the US and other developed countries from less developed countries. Those who work in agriculture, lawn care, and low paying jobs like janitors are well known. This book takes a detailed look at female migrant workers. These include maids, nannies, nurses, those who care for the young and elderly and extends to those kidnaped or sold into the sex slave trade and those who seek marriageable partners in developed countries to obtain visas. A single mother can earn enough in a developed country as a nurse, a nanny or as a prostitute to leave her children behind in the care of a relative and pay for their education and daycare. This process gives her children access to a better education that can lift them out of poverty.
This book is a collection of essays authored with assistance of researchers from numerous third world countries. The sociological aspect is consistent with Ehrenreich's usual works--always rich with social commentary. This time she functions as editor and provides one chapter from her earlier experience at Merry Maids as told in Nickeled and Dimed. Hochschild is professor of sociology at Berkeley.
The major migratory pathways for women are described generally as from south to north. In the US, African American women accounted for 60% of domestics in the 1940s. They have now been replaced by Latinas mostly from Mexico and Central America. In Europe migrants come from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the oil rich Mideast, many come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Phillippines, and Sri Lanka. In France, they now come from Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria; in Italy, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Cape Verde. Generally, migrants have replaced those who once came from poor rural areas of their own countries.
Several chapters on nannies and their problems are especially informative. The hours are long, overtime is seldom paid, time off it minimal, workers are sometimes farmed out to other families, or required to travel with the family on "holiday." The children often become attached to the nanny as part of the family, but this can result in jealousy on the part of birth mothers. Many nannies leave abruptly after an argument.
Various aspects of the sex trade are explored. In the Dominican Republic, married women may voluntarily go to the larger town of Sosua to work as prostitutes in the sex tourist industry. This good money is used to pay the family bills, but husbands sometimes spend the funds on alcoholism and gambling when the wife is away. Some prostitutes hope for a marriage proposal from German tourists. In Thailand, in the less prosperous mountain districts, daughters once were sold into sex slavery when the economic survival of the family required it. Now, rapid industrialization and rising standard of living have created major growth in sex tourism. Industrial workers have more money to spend on prostitutes. Mountain Thais now are more willing to sell their daughters to fund the purchase of electronics and other consumer goods.
In Viet Nam, the war killed many males and a disproportionate number of males were able to migrate to the US after the war. This has resulted in an over abundance of females. Educated females become un-marriageable. Arranged marriages with US citizens is one solution to this problem.
This book provides perspective on another aspect of the woman's rights movement in developing countries. Apparently several previous books have issued, but this subject has received little attention in the overall scheme of immigration policy. I saw no discussion of how these problems should be addressed. Presumably better laws are needed as well as a willingness to enforce existing laws in the case of the sex slavery and sex tourism. Different solutions seem appropriate in the case of licensed nurses who are aided in getting visas to fill a real shortage. The presence of undocumented migrants working as nannies and domestics is yet another problem. Perhaps different solutions are needed for each group. Mixing all of them in a single volume confuses the issues. The book lacks the impact it could have had.
This book is nicely done and thought provoking, but the absence of proposed solutions is a major omission. A collection of charts provide details of the female migrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index.