August 6 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm UTC-1
One event on May 14, 2021 at 1:00 pm
One event on June 4, 2021 at 1:00 pm
One event on June 25, 2021 at 1:00 pm
One event on July 16, 2021 at 1:00 pm
One event on August 6, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Feminist Fridays: Conversations about Labour Migration from a Feminist Lens is a collaborative initiative of Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Solidarity Center, and Women in Migration Network (WIMN).
During the course of six sessions, we will think through complex issues and build/share knowledge and learn from each other. We will start with a discussion on ‘what is a feminist lens on labour migration’ and will move on to feminist research, advocacy, organising and media. The final session will be on imagining feminist futures on labour migration. Panellists will come from academia, NGOs including migrant worker led organisations, trade unions and media.
Labour migration, within and across national borders, is part of the lived experience of many women and men in today’s world. In 2017, ILO estimated that there were 164 million international migrant workers: 96 million men and 68 million women. According to UN/DESA, prior to the onset of COVID-19, the number of international migrants had reached 281 million. This was in line with the upward trend in international migration for over two decades. While most countries do not document labour migration within their national borders, there is enough evidence to conclude that the number of workers who migrate from rural to urban and industrialised areas within their own countries has also been growing over the last few decades. And despite the disruptions created by COVID-19, people continue to move within and across borders.
Alongside the rise in scale, complexity and diversity of migration, it has also been the subject of increased policy interest. The international community has recognised linkages between international migration and development in recent UN instruments, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The reality of labour migration, however, tells us that states’ commitments are yet to be realised. A large number of internal and cross-border migrants work in the informal economy and earn very low wages. Many migrant workers are on short or fixed-term contracts and do not have adequate rights protection. It needs to be noted that the steady rise in labour migration is taking place alongside global trends of falling labour force participation, decent work deficits and rising unemployment that has been exacerbated in the last year due to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. Indeed, the precarity of migrant workers is integrally linked to the pattern of capitalist development, and social-structural conditions in which the production and social reproduction of labour take place. More than a year into the pandemic, the crisis in the world of work is a stark reminder that the current models of development have failed a large number of people, depleted natural resources and caused harm to the eco-system. If the current economic regime and development paradigm continue, exploitative labour schemes will also continue, despite the promises made in the international instruments.
The exacerbation of inequalities has particularly impacted women, who are overrepresented in the informal sector. Women migrant workers typically face gender-specific barriers to formal employment with full access to social protection and other labour rights. Most work opportunities for female migrants are in stereotypically female jobs. As such, they are typically employed in low-level service jobs, such as domestic work, or low-level industrial or agricultural jobs.
Low-paid and precarious jobs have meant that women are bearing the brunt of unemployment and have lower rates in employment reengagement due to enhanced care responsibilities and increased discrimination. Due to the layoffs, there is a risk that their work permits will not be renewed, resulting in risk of deportation. There has also been an increased risk of abuse and exploitation by employers aware of the precarity of migrant women’s situation. At the same time, many migrant and refugee women have been working as ‘essential workers’ (for example, in hospitality, care, and agriculture) with increased risks to their health due to a lack of protective equipment and their inability to fully access social protection and other human and labour rights.
How then should we engage with the issue of labour migration? How can we stand in solidarity with migrant workers, work with state and non-state actors for realisation of their rights but also critique the economic and development paradigms that increase precarious migration? How can we celebrate the agency and strength of migrant workers while also highlighting the abuse and exploitation they face? Does intersectional feminism enable us to understand and analyse the complex realities around labour migration? Would feminist politics help us in reimagining our futures? What would an intersectional feminist model of labour migration look like? Do we have colleagues based within migrant worker-led organisations, migrant-support groups, academia, media and trade unions in various regions of the world who are critically engaging with the issue of labour migration and working towards realisation of rights at home, abroad and on the way?
As we grapple with these questions in our work and shared our dreams and dilemmas with each other, planning a series of structured conversations with a larger group of colleagues seems like a good idea.