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Keywords:

  • transnational domestic workers;
  • migration;
  • gender;
  • family;
  • Philippines;
  • Singapore

Abstract

The migration of women engaged in transnational domestic work reveals how the uneven impacts of globalisation have intruded into the micro-world of families and households. In this age of globalisation and migration, family membership has become multisited or transnational, with members dispersed in space. The migration of workers and the separation this entails has raised challenges to notions and ideals of “being family”. Unlike other workers on the move, the migration of domestic workers has some distinctive characteristics. It can be framed in terms of women moving between families and households; workers whose departure from their family of origin and insertion into their family of employment reconstitute the structure and content of family relationships in both material and imagined ways. Drawing on in-depth interviews conducted in the Philippines and Singapore, we explore how migrant women and their family members define and negotiate family ideals, gender identities and family relationships, given the family's transnational configuration. Our findings provide some support to the notion that individual members in transnational families resort to “relativising” in fashioning responses to their situation.