Asian Review

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This study focused on female labour migration from four countries in Southeast Asia; namely Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Yunnan- China. The research covered a sample of 387 female returnees from the a fore-mentioned countries who had migrated internationally for employment. The major findings for each of the countries's case studies are summarised as follows. They were engaged mainly in the services sector, i.e., engaged as domestic helpers, caregivers, entertainers and sex workers. Some were hired in the manufacturing sector and a few to do agricultural work. All migrants from Yunnan were undocumented while those from the other three countries were both documented and undocumented. Thus, cases of trafficking could be found mostly in Yunnan but also to a lesser extent in the Philippines and Thailand. Many returnees were married with children when they migrated, generally between the ages of 20-35 years. In most cases, the husband would help with household work when the wives were away. All female workers earned some income during their time abroad and many remitted money to their parents of family at home. While they were working overseas, some women experiened physical violence and/or sexual harassment. Once they returned to their places of origin, female migrants faced differing situations. Most Indonesian women went back to their agricultural work, while many Filipinos attempted to migrate again rather than look for work in the Philippines. Thai females ofter engaged in local service work or became self-employed although many wanted to emigrate again. Yunnanese women generally returned to their housework and farm and few started their own businesses. There were few economic reintegration programmes to absorb returned women in their own country or community, making them vulnerable for remigration. Thai, Filipino and Chinese women generally reported that they had higher self-confidence and more independence after their return. In all, labour migration of women from the four countries indicated that there were cases of both legal migration and human smuggling (where women were voluntarily smuggled.) Migrant women were empowered economically when they worked abroad because they had a higher income and they could send remittances home. On the other hand, they were socially vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and sexual harassment. When women returned home, the situation was reversed : They were economically vulnerable because of a general lack of income but socially empowered due to their higher social status and selfconfidence, which they had developed. However, family disruptions such as divorce, infidelity and estrangement from children did occur and rendered some women socially vulnerable. Many returned female workers did not succeed in reintegrating themselves into the old social, cultural and economic contexts of their former lives.



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