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Migration and Intergenerational Relations in Southeast Asia (2)

Pia Jolliffe
University of Oxford


Pia Jolliffe
University of Oxford

Mr Andy Chang
University of California, Berkeley

Southeast Asia is very diverse. The eleven Southeast Asian countries vary in historical, socio-cultural and political economic experiences. Yet, in spite of this diversity the region faces shared demographic challenges related to migration and intergenerational relations, in particular changing patterns of traditional family life, marriage and childbearing, ageing populations and migration for education and work.

Already in pre-modern Southeast Asia migration shaped demographic landscapes within and between the realms of kings, landlords, sultans and other local political authorities. Movements of persons were structured according to household and market demands. Children and youth, especially boys, migrated for education between their family homes and locations of learning such as Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques. Also marriage was a frequent reason for men and women to migrate out of their parternal home into the household of their in-laws. Of course, marriage always has socio-cultural and political-economic meanings as it establishes relations between households, village communities or even larger political entities. Trade and commerce, too, asked individuals to migrate between different areas in mainland and insular Southeast Asia. Pre-modern Southeast Asia was a also a destination for migrants from Europe, such as mercants, mercenaries and Christian missionaries from Portugal or Italy. These movements, too, impacted on the intergenerational relations between those who travelled and those who remained behind. Colonialism and the formation of modern centralized states strongly impacted on the political economy of Southeast Asia and the region´s interdependence with global markets and other modern institutions such as the World Bank, the United Nations etc. In this context, modern notions of citizenship, national security and border control create new inequalities between and among peoples in different areas of Southeast Asia. These developments have implications for intergenerational relations.
This panel aims at bringing together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds 1. to explore the historical and contemporary dynamics that shape migration in Southeast Asia and 2. to relate these socio-cultural and political-economic processes to intergenerational relations. In this way, panel participants will illuminate how different patterns of migration shape intergenerational relations at different times and places in history on local, regional and international levels.

Paper 1: Migration, Gender and the Political Economy of Care: The case of Migrant Domestic Workers in Taiwan

Mr Yannis-Adam Allouache
University of Ottawa

East Asian nations’ rapid transition to postindustrial societies are now confronted with acute socio-demographic and care crises Table1 from aging populations, low fertility rates and changes to the traditional reliance on the family to provide social welfare. Since the 1970s, the foremost policy response has been the implementation of guest worker programs to attract low or unskilled workers from neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Taiwan’s program began in the early 1990s, and its foreign-born migrant population is now approaching half a million, representing a 50% increase from a decade ago, altering the face of Taiwan’s political demography. The vast majority are migrant domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines. This paper problematizes the multiple dimensions of the question of exclusion faced by migrant domestic workers in Taiwan, arguing that, even in favorable conditions, the dynamics of the political economy of care capitalizes on migrant women’s labor as ‘disposable labor’ (Lan, 2008) In order to do so it brings together literature on gender and the nation (Yuval-Davis, 1993) and ‘the global political economy of care’ (Williams, 2010) to show that, Indeed, States can have a ‘liberal pretense’ (Tseng and Wang, 2013) camouflaging a resilient ethno-cultural imaginary with localized impacts these on women and community’s capacity to live meaningful, fulfilled lives away from home.

Paper 2: The Gender Politics of International Migration: Female Breadwinners and House Husbands in Java, Indonesia

Mr Andy Chang
University of California, Berkeley

Over the past four decades, labor migration has become an increasingly crucial livelihood strategy for the peasantry in Indonesia’s poor regions. The labor-displacement effects of the “green revolution,” along with the expansion of dynamic capitalist sectors outside agrarian villages, have facilitated Java’s large incidences of outward migration. Yet, from the 1970s to the 1980s, it was primarily young men who took part in long-distance migration, leaving behind their families to engage in paddy production. By the late 1990s, rural men’s material fortunes had reversed: rising international demand for migrant women’s labor, coupled with declining opportunities for men to work in Malaysia, had led to the growing mobility of women at the expense of men. Through remittances, migrant women have utilized their elevated bargaining power to compel husbands to engage in lowly remunerated productive labor at home. The feminization of labor migration has thus catalyzed a transition in gender relations, as stay-behind men find it increasingly difficult to justify their household contributions. Based on seven months of ethnographic research in four migrant-sending villages in East Java, I argue that this politics of gendered mobility and contested masculinity must be situated in the context of structural changes in the rural, national, and international economies that have produced uneven employment opportunities for peasants along gender and class lines. Furthermore, this paper considers how Java’s matrifocal and bilateral kinship system mediates economic transformations and government intervention to stimulate rural women’s participation in international labor markets. Finally, my paper attends to the diverse ways in which immobile men are coping with their declining male privilege, as women kin have attained higher social status as breadwinners, community builders, and “foreign-exchange heroes” for the nation.

Paper 3: Manufacturing a ‘Successful’ Care Worker: Technologies of the Indonesian Labor Migration Program

Ms Samia Dinkelaker
Freie Universitaet Berlin

Female domestic and care workers make the largest proportion of Indonesian documented migrants. As temporary contract laborers they live and work in private in countries of the Middle East and East Asia. These households delegate the care work for children and elderly as well as domestic chores to foreign migrant workers from the ‘global South’, such as Indonesia or the Philippines. Recruited as individuals, the workers maintain long-distance relationships to their kin at home. The Indonesian state-sponsored contract labor program facilitates care migration and involves an array of state and non-state institutions which recruit, certify, train, and deliver female migrants to their destination countries. Based on a 12 month multi-sited fieldwork in Indonesia and Hong Kong, my paper explores the various techniques applied to produce gendered and racialized migrant subject positions during the pre-employment temporary labor migration process. I focus on interactions between migrant workers and instructors in a training center in East Java and Indonesian bureaucrats in East Java and Hong Kong. I will scrutinize practices of ‘governing’ Indonesian female migrants that target the professionalization of emotional labor, producing the migrants’ servility and fostering their emotional capacities in abiding the separation from their families as well as the establishment of bonds with their homeland and nation. I will further discuss, whether and how migrants (cor)respond to the invoked figures of the ‘ideal migrant’. In addition to the rich literature on transnational care migration, this paper highlights the micro-processes along the migration routes in regard of migration management and the transnationalization of care.

Paper 4: Intergenerational Effect of Filipina Return Migration

Mr Kidjie Saguin
National University of Singapore

According to official estimates, less than half of the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) population save a part of their cash remittances, most of which are only able to set aside 25% or less of their earnings. Most OFWs return home broke despite years of earning more than what they can in the Philippines. This poor saving behaviour among Filipino migrant workers has been attributed to their unwillingness to save. This paper attempts to better understand this behaviour using the theory of transnationalism and explore its intergenerational effect in the context of return migration. With return migration viewed from a transnationalist perspective, the poor saving behaviour can be attributed to the continuous process of renegotiation of space for return being experienced by OFWs. Using qualitative information derived from interviews with current Filipina household service workers (HSW), the paper finds that Filipina migrant workers tend to use their income for social reintegration rather financial preparation. Instead of saving for their own retirement, they use their earnings to carve out the space for their return within their families through transnational practices such as sending remittances and regular visits. As they form their identity as a returnee, migrant workers find the greatest reassurance in the implicit social obligation they have forged with younger family members, who have vouched to care of them upon their return. Policy recommendations will be made on improving reintegration programs in light of this intergenerational effects of return migration.