Beyond Empowerment and Exploitation: Care Chain of Transnational Migratory Nepali Women
Migration of Nepali women nationally as well as transnationally for paid labour work and particularly for care work is increasing rapidly. Among the other reasons, this is broadly linked to social transformation taking place both at the source and the destination. Studies on care work migration show that the foreign migration and associated remittance flow by migrant women is not only redefining the role of women as breadwinners for their family and gradually changing the gender role in Nepal, but also shaping the socio-cultural meanings of care, and the care economy more broadly. There have been some studies looking at Nepali women’s migration to the UK; but these do not conceptualise women’s migration using the framework of the ‘global care chain’, originally coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in the year 2000, i.e. how migration of a family member and the transfer of care responsibility from one person to other affect the chain of care at the family level and beyond. This research provides socio-cultural meanings of migration using the framework of the ‘global care chain’ and the experiences and perceptions of women who migrate from a low-income country (Nepal) to a high-income country (UK) for care work.
In order to fulfill the aim of the research, following questions are addressed during the research.
- What are the experiences and perceptions of Nepali women and men involved in care work in the UK? How do these women and men manage care of their family (whether accompanied in the UK or left behind in Nepal) while simultaneously providing care in the UK market?
- How do women and their household make decisions on migration and care?
- How does care migration shape ‘care’ in the family left behind in Nepal? How does care migration shape patterns of internal migration within Nepal?
- What regulatory and policy framework are in place in shaping this form of migration?
The questions are addressed by following a case study design. The research uses qualitative research methods to allow discrete attention to each participating migrant and associated care chains by following individual cases in a comprehensive manner. Multi-sited ethnographic fieldworks are conducted in the UK and Nepal. This includes semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews consisting of open-ended questions on life history and participant observations with Nepali women and men involved in care services in the UK and their family members who remain in Nepal.
Following the cases of individual migrants and their family members, it will trace how far and in which ways the households and family back home are able to fill the care gap caused by the migration of a family member. Thus, it will involve looking at how transnational and internal migration from rural to urban areas within Nepal shapes the dynamics of care within Nepali households. Overall, the research seeks to contribute to academic debate on migration and women’s empowerment and more specifically on the effect of transnational migration in influencing ‘care’ and rural-urban migration.