First Explorations in the field: The Construction of Transnational

“The Construction of Transnational Migratory Careers :
The Case of Ecuadorian and Colombian Women Working
in the care/domestic sectors in the Global City of Brussels.
Maria Vivas
[email protected]
Séminaire Doctoral Genre et Developpement/ Université Catholique de Louvain
February, 2014
(Sponsored by FNRS-FRESH)
Adviser Jean-Michel Lafleur
The Feminization of Migration: percentage of migrant
women through the world
Gender & Migration Studies: locating my study within
the existing theories.
o 1885: Ernst Revensteins announces that “Women are more migratory than men” at
least over short distances.
o 1970s : the question of gender re-appears in migration studies (Donato, 2006).
Researchers begin to add women, “mix & stir” women become just another variable.
o 1980s : research in gender & migration expands to multiple topics : economic impacts,
family cohesion, racialization of migrants, the gender division of labor, … (Donato et. Al,
2006). We move towards the “women only approach”
o 1990s : the feminization of migration and gender as relational in the whole migration
process (Zlotnick,2003).
o 2000s : discussing women’s transnational strategies : transnational motherhood
(Drebby, 2010), the global care chain (Parreñas, 2001).
o Towards a new Transnational Migratory Career Approach: Questioning these past
theories and bringing female migrants in out of the shadow (Timmerman et. Al, 2012,
Kilkey & Merla, 2013).
Gender as a transversal aspect in the entire migration
process: Towards a Transnational and multi-dimensional
Gender approach.
Researchers have realized that the links between gender & Migration are global and encompass a multiplicity of actors:
At the Macro Level: The Transnational outflows of labor seem to be gender and require women to take the role of careworkers in the new globalized economy (Parreñas, 2001). These leads migrant women to be a part of Transnational Social
Fields in which ideas, practices, labor (care-work) are unequally exchanged, organized and transformed with bounded
structures, actors and processes (Basch, Glick-Schiller et al. 1994; Glick-Schiller & Levitt, 2004, Levitt & Khagram, 2008). On
the other hand, Institutions, laws and policies in the country of origin and here are also gendered.
A the Meso Level: Transnational Social and Care Networks gain an ever-increasing importance when explaining female
migration. They might motivate women to move abroad while they might also block them in particular gendered sectors of
the receiving country’s economy.
At the Micro level: Migration decisions and projects are influenced by gender roles & Positions (Morokvasic, 1991)
Introducing my research: Filling in the gaps studying carework labor migration in Belgium with a Transnational lens.
o Belgium : the feminization of migration & the implications for the Belgian
society and the women themselves (Timmerman et. Al, 2012).
o The dynamics of Carework labor migration in Belgium (Zimmerman et. Al,
2006) could be described as a Transnational phenomenon.
o The Study of two small but relevant minorities: Colombian & Ecuadorian
o This context leads me into these research questions:
“How are these care-workers in the global city of Brussels incorporating
themselves in the Belgian labor market through the mobilization of various
resources at different scales of the “Transnational Social Field” ? And what
is the role of these resources in their incorporation? “
Why focus on Ecuadorian/Colombian
• Latin Americans have the second highest percentage of women among
their immigrants:
- Colombian women represent 59% of the Colombian immigrant
population in Belgium.
- Ecuadorian women represent 65% of the Ecuadorian immigrant
population in Belgium (Martiniello, Mazzochetti, et. Al, 2013).
• Although these two groups are recent they have been growing
increasingly through time. There is approximately: 5,137 Ecuadorians
legally residing in Belgium and about 4,632 and among them 2,942
became Belgian citizens (European Migration Network, 2012) .
• These two groups of female migrants have constituted ethnic niches
around the sectors of care-work (Freitas, Godin et al.2012).
Who are these new Latin American Migrants in
o An immigration pattern that intensified due to border control scrutiny in older
destination countries (Lafleur,2008).
o Demographical changes in certain L.A. countries have led towards autonomous female
migratory paths from L.A to E.U and other places in the world (Camargo, 2010;
Martiniello, Mazzochetti; Rea 2013).
o Structural adjustments plans & economic crisis in certain L.A countries made these
women take the autonomous decision to leave (Roman Arnez, 2009, Herrera & Yepez,
o Most of these L.A women come from L.A’s urban centers. In the case of Ecuador from:
Quito & Guayaquil (Herrera & Yepez, 2008). In the Case of Colombia, from:
Barranquilla, Medellin, Bogota, Bucaramanga… (Guarnizo, 2006)
The factors concerning labor incorporation of these
women in Belgium:
Belgium’s, does not recognize care-work as sector in shortage, therefore, they cannot easily access
to regularization for work related reasons  Leading them into the informal market, many of them
remain invisible actors in the global city of Brussels ( Freitas & Godin, 2013, Degavre, 2008).
Belgium’s Welfare state leaves the responsibility on the user to “choose” who takes care of their
loved ones. Additionally it’s a gender welfare state in which mainly women hold the responsibility
to care and decides over who takes care of the kids/elders (Lutz, 2008).
Immigration status: some of them have benefitted from earlier regularization periods both in
Belgium and southern European States (Sandell, 2005). This might make their regular incorporation
to the labor market as care-workers smoother.
These new migrant women are part of the New Reproductive International Division of labor, and
gender is in the outflow of labor, specifically: Care-Work (Parreñas, 2001, Sassen 2001).
Their labor incorporation is a transnational phenomenon in which they construct social/care
networks to smooth the process, where also gender roles changes are continuously taking place(
Curran & Rivero-Fuentes, 2003).
An adequate theoretical core : The concept of migratory
(Martiniello & Rea 2011)
Covering the 3 levels of sociological analysis :
o Macro : opportunities offered by the Belgian state & their choice to
settle here.
o Meso: the transnational networks and the impact in their labor
careers. The use and mobilization of labor, care & social networks
(Levitt & Jaworsky, 2007, Kilkey & Merla, 2013) ;
o Micro: individual gender role changes : gains in agency and ways of
accomplishing new gender roles through their labor migration
before/after (Giddens, 1976, Melucci,1989, Aranda, 2003).
The Transnational Fieldwork: An overview of the
o Access to the field : language abilities, involvement in the community.
o Sample selection : a set of 2 constant variables based on previous
empirical/theoretical research: 1- Time of arrival in Belgium: 1990s-2008 this
relates to the highest period of augmentation of Latin American migration to
Europe (Herrera & Yepez 2008). 2- Working as care-work professionals in the
global city of Brussels.
o Fieldwork Places: The Global City of Brussels/ Their countries of origin.
o Various Actors: The Women, Migrant Organizations, State Institutions, Work
Places, Households in the Country of origin.
The Research’s Main Goals:
Obtain a clear picture of these new feminisation of migration in Belgium. Move
along towards the recognition of it as a Transnational phenomenon that has
consequences/implications at the local, individual and transnational levels;
revealing the multiple connections of the actors involved in them.
Challenge the image of a migrant women, powerless and embedded in a
International Division of Reproductive labour and evaluate her capacity to mobilize
actors/resources, to overcome the difficulties imposed by the global/local
Provide a comparative approach, might lead into easier generalizations, of female
labour migration in Belgium and abroad.
Evaluate these phenomenon from a transnational lens that might lead me to
propose accurate policies that will benefit all of the actors involved in it. Therefore,
making links between theory and practice; moving beyond description and
Current Stage of the Project:
Stage 1:
- Clarification of my Research Question and aims of
the research.
- Construction a Theoretical framework
(Transnationalism, The Use of Careers in
Migration Studies.)
- First Sketch of a methodological framework for
the fieldwork.
- Active participation in academic events, to verify
my ideas, research question and methods.
Annexes & Definitions
Multi-sited Fieldwork Methodology :
Sept 2014- December 2014: Brussels (the global city, Sassen, 2001).
1- Work Places: To conduct Participant Objectivation & Narratives (Sommers & Gibson, 1994, Foote-Whyte, 1993, Bourdieu, 2003).
2- Migrant Organizations: Hispano-Belga: To conduct  Focus Groups (Morgan, 1996).
3- State Institutions: The office for foreign Affairs, Local Domestic workers trade Unions CSC Femmes- both to collect statistical data & Interview some
staff members.
January 2015- September 2015:
1- Colombia/Ecuador: sites will be determine by the earlier period of research in Belgium.- Interview and observe care/labor networks that take place
simultaneously and transnationally.
September 2015- January 2016:
1- Work Places
2- Migrant Organizations: O.R.C.A
3- State Insitutions: The Office of Foreing Affairs.
January 2016- September 2016:
1- Countries of origin.
«Transnationalism »
« The practices that take place within fluid
social spaces that are constantly re-worked
through migrant’s simultaneous embeddeness
,in more than on society. »
(Levitt & Glick-Schiller, 2004).
« Transnational Social Field »
« A field in which ideas, practices, and resources
in this case care-work are being constantly
unequally exchanged, organized and
transformed with bounded structures, actors
and processes. »
(Basch, Glick-Schiller et al.1994; Glick-Schiller &
Levitt 2004, Levitt & Khagram, 2008).
« Care-Work »
« Care-Work refers to the multiple-facets of labor that produce daily living conditions
responsible for basic human health and well-being. They include housekeeping tasks
but also the care for others, nursing the sick etc. The protective and restorative aspect
of care-work that connects people is not ignored. Care-work connects people on a
deep level to many human emotions and these aspects are over-looked when we just
refer to this type of labor as: « care ». This term also acknowledges 40 years of
feminist work that indicates that care-work is neither natural nor essential to a
woman’s being. Contemporary care dynamics are rooted in cultural, political dynamics
of gender relations »
(Zimmerman et, al. 2006).
« Gender »
“The term gender describes those conducts which we tend to
considered normal that are mainly embodied in the female
figure and are ultimately called “gender”. Aranda (2003)
describes this as a “routine of methodological
accomplishments.” These accomplishments eventually
transform into routines and multiple ways of “doing gender”.
These routines are the product of a social construction and an
interaction that casts particular pursuits and expressions of
mainly women natures. “
Belgium and the feminization of
o In Belgium out of the total percentage of migrants 48.96% are women.
o This feminization does not apply to all national categories, mainly to
Pilipino and Latin American women.
o The nationalities with the highest percentage of women within them are :
Philippines : 76.6%
Brazilians : 61%
Ecuadorians : 59%
Peruvians : 65%
Colombians : 59%
o Latin American were described in Femigrin (2012) as the entrepreneurs of
their own projects.
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