Shifts in numbers of female labourers are having an impact felt throughout the world. Today, a finer look at the numbers, discerning both the good and the bad stemming from them.
The advancement of female labourers in the developed world has had ramifications for the women outside of it, both advantageous and precarious. On the one hand, greater female involvement in the paid labour force within the developed world, and the greater degree of the division of labour generally in developed economies, has made space for the outsourcing of domestic labour internationally, with the potential for the economic advancement of women from the developing world, which would manifest in greater independence as wage earners and visa holders in themselves.
Unfortunately, it also illustrates the pervasive nature of the cultural understandings of domestic labour as the domain of the women, which instead of changing, has only shifted elsewhere. Those roles remain undervalued, and typically attract less rights and lower rates of reimbursement than male dominated industries. Implicit in the change could be the understanding that cooking, cleaning and caring skills are learnt and not inherent in women, and that the kind of training and education available to women in the developed world has been formalised and diversified and so that work needn’t necessarily fall on them. Or alternatively it could simply show that the continued undervaluing of domestic work has simply meant women with the option to will seek better paid, better respected work than previously taken.
Prejudices and disadvantages have presented an opportunity and a push for the advancement of women from the developing world. To actualise that there needs to be a greater legitimisation of domestic work legally and culturally.
In Gender and migration: A paper prepared for the Policy Analysis and Research Programme of the Global Commission on International Migration from Nicola Piper, the comparison of the rights and wages of IT workers and domestic workers in the EU and US (both in demand but widely disparate in treatment) highlights the greater valuing of male dominated industries. This, as well as the connected nature of work considered unskilled, and illegal migration which also works to undermine the rights of female migrants, results in female migrants being “triply disadvantaged”.
As described by Pfeiffer, Richter, Fletcher and Taylor though, the demand for female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing may explain the greater proportion of migrants in the developed world being female, with there being twice as many foreign-born permanent residents that are women in Canada, with the attraction for women to migrate to these areas of the world being enhanced by the improved access to education and independence.
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This means that the prejudices and disadvantages of women in destination countries in the undervaluing of female dominated work (and the sending countries in the treatment of women) have actually presented an opportunity and a push for the advancement of women from the developing world. To actualise that opportunity though, and to dissipate the labour market disadvantage and segregation, there needs to be a greater legitimisation of domestic work legally and culturally.
Interestingly, the undervaluing that sees those professions chronically understaffed may also mean greater power and choice for those working within those sectors moving forward.