GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Gender, Migration and State Responses: The Case of India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka
Paper Proposal Text :
Despite the increasing presence of women workers in international migration flows the State response, in general, tend to be gender-stereotypical. Migrant women are often portrayed as victims and assumed to be a category that requires constant State monitoring and protection. However, it is also true that there exist considerable variation across countries in the State responses to women’s labour outflows. By taking up the case of women migration in the Asia-Gulf migration corridor, the paper intends to understand similarities and distinctions in the State responses to women’s migration in three countries— India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. In all these three countries, migration has been largely driven by low- and medium-skilled workers, majorly to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Further, foreign employment policy regimes in these countries are transforming from regulatory to state-managed and facilitated systems. Interestingly, there also exist notable differences between the selected countries: in comparison with India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have more feminised labour flows. Moreover, in the latter two countries, legal structures and migrant services are also more attuned to the requirements of women migrants.
To unravel, the State responses to migrant women workers, the paper will focus on two fundamental questions: (a) how do the administrative structures that manages labour migration respond to women workers? and; (b) to what extent various migration services offered by the State are gender sensitive or are attuned to address gender concerns in the migration cycle? To address the first question, how do administrative structures promote, regulate and/or control the mobility of women workers, the existing legal and policy frameworks that pertain to labour migration in India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka will be reviewed. Apart from the migration polices other relevant policy documents, for instance, those concerning skill and youth development that have implications for future migration outflows will also be analysed. Subsequently, the paper will proceed to explore to what extent various migrant services offered by the State in the countries of origin— during pre-departure, at the destination and return and reintegration—are formulated to address gender concerns. Migrant services analysed would include information services, skill development programmes, complaint addressal mechanism, and financial support available, to mention a few.
The paper will adopt a comparative perspective and would essentially rely on a review of the secondary literature. This would cover, annual reports of the concerned ministries (Ministry of External Affairs in India, Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines and Ministry of Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka) and affiliated institutions, policy documents, legislative frameworks on migration, including recent amendments, reports by international organisations.
The paper argues that restrictions with the intention to ‘protect’ females tend to be counterproductive, reproducing existing oppressive structures and increasing the vulnerability of female workers. On the contrary, efforts should be made to ensure conditions of decent work to migrant women workers, including skill upgradation to promote their vertical mobility, adequate wages, social security and protection against abuses. This would essentially require, deconstructing the image of women as mere spectators of the process, and placing the women migrant at the focal point of the migration policy.