The International Migration of “Traditional Women”: Migrant Sex Workers, Domestic Workers, and Mail-order Brides in the Pacific Rim

CCIS hosted an interdisciplinary conference on the international migration of women filling traditional women’s roles in the Pacific Rim region. The Pacific Rim region has witnessed considerable growth in female migration over the past several decades, particularly from less developed states such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia into more developed states such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the U.S., and Canada. Many of these female migrants become domestic workers, sex workers, and mail-order brides in the receiving states, providing housecleaning, child care, cooking, elderly care, and/or sexual services. That is, there is an apparent demand in more developed states in the Pacific Rim not for generic labor, but for a certain kind of woman to provide the kinds of gendered services and caring labor historically relegated to women. Concurrently, the industries that recruit, traffic, and broker migrant women for these gendered roles have developed into multi-million dollar enterprises. These emerging markets have consequences for the social structures of both sending and receiving states in the Pacific Rim. They also have consequences for the migrants themselves, who are often subject to abuses not easily addressed through labor laws.

The International Migration of “Traditional Women” Agenda »


Forced Migration, Global Security, and Humanitarian Assistance

Scholars and non-academic professionals working with refugees addressed current themes in forced migration through a combination of theoretical and practical approaches. Topics included: the causes of refugee flows, their impact on receiving countries, implications for international security, and humanitarian responses.

Forced Migration, Global Security, and Humanitarian Assistance Agenda »


Reluctant Hosts? Japan as a Recent Country of Immigration in Comparative Perspective

A multidisciplinary group of immigration specialists analyzed the extent to which immigrant labor has become “structurally embedded” in Japanese society because of various demographic and other socioeconomic processes. Given the permanence of immigrants in Japan, the project then examines local-level efforts to socially integrate them into Japanese society. The Japanese case will be placed in comparative perspective by analyzing similar issues in other “recent” countries of immigration (Korea, Spain, and Germany). The results of the project have been published as a CCIS anthology.

Reluctant Hosts Agenda »


Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective

Participants compared immigration control policies and outcomes in 11 major labor-importing countries (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, Japan, and Korea). They sought to explain the persisting gap between the goals of immigration control policies and their results through in-depth country case studies with special attention to human smuggling operations and the relationship between immigration control and security issues. The project culminated in an edited volume (second edition) published by Stanford University Press.

Controlling Immigration Agenda »


Immigrant Women in the U.S. Domestic Service Industry

This panel discussion was based on presentations by the following two speakers:

  • Kristin Maher (Assistant Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University) “Labor Brokers and the International Maid Trade: The Commodification of ‘Traditional Femininity’ in a Global Market”
  • Rhacel Salazar Parrenas (Assistant Professor of Women’s and Ethnic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison) “Migrant Domestic Work and the International Division of Reproductive Labor”

Grounding Transnational Lives: A Dialogue

Drawing upon case studies reflecting the uniqueness of transnational lives, panelists discussed the transnational social fields (domestic, educational, religious, leisure, etc.) within which individuals operate and engage in identity politics. Participants discussed the specificities of how lives unfold and the nature of commitments, interests, and ties across borders.