Domestic Insecurities: Female Migration from the Philippines, Development and National Subject-Status (Working Paper #114)

Robyn M. Rodriguez, University of California – Berkeley

Abstract: Since 1974 when labor export was first institutionalized by the Philippine government as a developmental policy, it has benefited politically by providing jobs to its citizens and economically through the remittances sent by migrants earned from employment abroad. As the out-migration of women working mostly as domestic workers and entertainersbegan to rival and even outpace that of men, however, the state’s highly profitable program faced a crisis or what might be termed “domestic insecurities”: insecurities felt by its populace about labor export, prompted mainly by domestic worker migration; insecurities which threatened the legitimacy of a major domestic developmental policy. Ordinary Philippine citizens, migrant advocates and migrants themselves began to contest labor export. Many believed labor export exposed women migrants to harsh forms of sexual violence. Others believed that the out-migration of women was weakening the Philippines’ social and moral fabric and still others, believed that the out-migration of Filipinas as domestic workers and entertainers threatened the Philippine state’s subjectstatus on the world stage. Contestations over labor export culminated into a crisis state with the hanging of a Filipina domestic worker by the Singaporean government in 1995 compelling the Philippine state to introduce major migration reforms in order to salvage the labor export program on which it had come to critically depend. This paper track’s the emergence of the gendered crisis of migration in the Philippines, the state’s response to it and its impacts on Filipina migrants. It aims to critically engage with the gender and development literature to illustrate the different ways gender, the specific experiences of gender by individuals as well as gendered representations and symbolism on different scales, shapes developmental interventions of postcolonial states and impacts women in both empowering and disempowering ways.

Working Paper #114»