For Better or for Worse? Migrant Women Workers and ICTs

Gemma Tulud Cruz

Permanent, temporary and cyclical migration due to trade, work, religion or cultural interchange has long been a part of Asian history. In pre-colonial times the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos have witnessed population movements via the sea, particularly by Arab and Chinese traders. Colonization intensified the movements and brought in a new dimension, that is, labor migration. Today, despite most destination countries’ stricter policies and border control, Asian labor migration goes on and is even undergoing rapid expansion and radical transformation due to globalization.

One such change is the increasing feminization of migration, especially in the last three decades, in certain parts of the continent, particularly Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.1 Today, more than two million Asian migrant women work in Asian countries alone.2 As Nikos Papastergiadis contends “the modern migrant no longer conforms to the stereotypical image of the male urban peasant. Women in manufacturing, electronic assembly line and domestic workers are now at the front line of global migration.”3

Globalization’s influence into the lives of Asian women in general, and the lives of Asian migrant women workers in particular, goes beyond the economic realm. It traverses the various phases of their journeys and the multifaceted dimensions of their lives. Nowhere is this pervasive influence illustrated than in one of globalization’s primary engines, that is, information and communication technologies (ICTs).4 The succeeding section describes the various ways in which ICTs play an important role in Asian migrant women workers’ lives.

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