Gendered dynamics of international labour migration: migrant women working in Pakistan

Technical report


Lazzarino, R., Kofman, E. and Kapadia, S. 2024. Gendered dynamics of international labour migration: migrant women working in Pakistan. London The Gender, Justice and Security Hub. https://doi.org/10.60528/112z87
TypeTechnical report
TitleGendered dynamics of international labour migration: migrant women working in Pakistan
AuthorsLazzarino, R., Kofman, E. and Kapadia, S.
Abstract

Overview
There are nearly 8.5 million migrant workers working across different regions of Pakistan, which include both internal and foreign migrant workers. Forty-five per cent of these workers are engaged in informal activities including day labourers, construction workers, domestic helpers, factory workers, informal restaurants, and beauty salons. Pakistan has received a mass influx of people fleeing conflict. The Afghan community is among the largest among undocumented migrants living in the country ( 500,000 as per recent estimates ), followed by a combined population of Bengali, Bangladeshi, and Burmese nationals.

Pakistan in not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Additionally, the country lacks a national refugee law, and has therefore been able to avoid granting Afghans clear and defined rights, legal integration, and citizenship. The domestic service sector is one of the largest informal employment sectors in Pakistan. Middle and upper-class households employ women domestic workers, primarily Pakistani domestic workers. However, there are several women workers groups of migrant origin involved in the domestic care industry, for example, such as the ‘Hazara’ in Baluchistan and the Pakistani Bengalis who are Pakistani citizens of Bangladeshi heritage.

Pakistan has become an employment destination for Migrant Filipino Domestic Workers (MFDW) , who constitute one of the largest groups among the estimated over 2,000 Filipinos living in Pakistan and of the over 1,000 Filipinos holding a working visa . Despite having a written contractual agreement – that national domestic workers do not hold – literature has shown the absence of labour protections and economic security.

Key findings
This study is part of a multi-country research project ‘Gendered Dynamics of International Labour Migration’ also involving Turkey, Lebanon, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), which investigated drivers of migration, incorporation into the labour market, experiences of work and living in Pakistan, agency and coping strategies and use of public space. Overall, 22 individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted, predominantly in Islamabad, with adult migrant women with different skill levels, nationalities, and migration experiences. The majority of participants consists of highly skilled and educated migrant women of diverse nationalities who migrated from the Philippines, Canada, China-Korea, Uganda, Germany, Egypt, and Somalia.

Among these highly skilled migrants, a good number hold a PhD and/or have professional degrees and worked in formal sectors, i.e., in teaching and as development professionals in international NGOs/UN agencies. Notably, they came to Pakistan for different reasons: family reunification, marriage, independent work and for education and professional opportunities. Of the seven female migrants who worked in domestic and care work, six were MFDW and one was from Tanzania. Most of them, in fact, wanted to find either a job – if they were housewives in their country of origin – or a better paid one, highlighting the lack of opportunities. Most of them had children and providing for them was the chief motivation behind seeking a higher income. Other personal motivations included the desire to escape an unhappy marriage.

All Afghan participants worked in the semi-skilled sector as self-employed workers in the service industry, such as beauty salons and carpet-weaving. Gender-based discrimination rooted in social norms, such as those normalising child marriage, or the difficulty of finding the desired employment out of the house, and that are exacerbated by the Taliban regime, is a key driver of migration. A few research participants worked independently as business owners or in service industries.

Gender-based discrimination in Pakistan was not openly reported by the migrant women workers who participated in this study, despite those who are married to a Pakistani reporting instances of clashing gender norms. Nearly all describe their living and working conditions in positive terms.

Besides the MDWs, a recurrent issue reported is the challenging system in relation to their legal status, which poses several and continuing challenges to obtain and renew their permit. Many migrant workers detailed instances of obstacles that they encountered in their daily life because they were not in possession of the national ID card. On the negative end, there is the case of the undocumented Afghan refugees, living in hiding, and deskilled, who feel socially discriminated against and not integrated in the hosting society. The only two cases of post-migration upskilling are those of two Filipina women both of whom have BAs, one went from being a MDW to establishing her own job agency business (hiring MFDWs), and the other became a swimming coach.

Despite the diversity of living and working experiences, including the type of accommodation and living arrangements, most women said that they move around the city freely, using cars or taxis, that they go to restaurants, malls, and markets. For MDWs their process of acquainting with the host country and ‘going out’ to public spaces is filtered by the family they live with, and, to a certain extent, necessarily hampered by their home-based work. The agency of the migrant women in this study can be grasped in all the realms of drivers and processes of migration, the experiences of discrimination at home, their living and working and moving around in Islamabad city, as well as seen as connected to the past, the present and the future as envisaged by the migrant women. Their coping strategies consist in making choices, taking actions, and creating narratives that can mitigate the hardships of their situation in different realms, from the domestic to the workplace.

The impact of COVID-19 varied according to the type of work migrant women undertook. It ranged from the possibility of loss or severe reduction of income for those with businesses, being forced to stay inside or working remotely, especially for the group of professionals. For some MFDWs, the workload increased considerably, for others the situation remained unchanged.

Interview snapshots
An upskilled Filipino migrant woman described becoming more religious and how this led her to fall in love with her Pakistani husband, get married, start their own family of which she is proud, and enjoy her marriage and her new family life. An Afghan migrant woman came instead from a very conservative family, and she was a victim of child and arranged marriage. In Islamabad, she first started working in the family bakery, then as beautician, to end up managing her own salon. A highly educated Algerian migrant woman recounts also a situation of humiliation within the family on behalf of her Pakistani husband’s brother-in-law. In fact, she is very critical of the strong bond that exists between mother and son in the country, and of the patrilocal custom whereby the wife is expected to move in with her in-laws and become their domestic helper.

Recommendations
More research is needed to understand the conditions and the experiences of women migrant communities, from refugees to professionals, in Pakistan, both in relation to their social and economic contribution to the hosting society, as well as in relation to their internal dynamics and further migration aspirations.
Government departments in Pakistan dealing with migrants could be invited to cooperate and compile documents for circulation where they collate their data on migrant communities. ILO, IOM and UNHCR, and other INGOs, could also share their statistics to support delineating a clearer picture of the complex reality of migrants in the country.
Evidence-based and migrant-centred programmes of intervention to support the employability and wellbeing of the Afghan community, and other migrant communities, in Pakistan should be strengthened in view of local integration and resettlement. Economic empowerment, legal protection, job security, access to health and social care, social norms changes should be enhanced, in particular targeting hard-to-reach, rural and undocumented communities, and within those, women.
The Pakistani government should re-consider signing the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Additionally, the government should work at the drafting of a refugee law.
The Pakistani government should revise regulations and policies in relation to the assignment of ID cards to migrant workers, in conjunction with the third sector and employers, to make the permit system more accessible and inclusive.

Sustainable Development Goals10 Reduced inequalities
16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
3 Good health and well-being
5 Gender equality
8 Decent work and economic growth
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Health & Wellbeing
Sustainability
Research GroupDiversity and Gender group
PublisherThe Gender, Justice and Security Hub
Place of publicationLondon
Page range62
Publication dates
Online21 Mar 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted15 Sep 2023
Deposited27 Mar 2024
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
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Open
Additional information

Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) - UKRI - grant ID AH/S004025/1.

DOI minted by Middlesex University Research Repository.

Web address (URL)https://thegenderhub.com/publications/migrant-women-working-in-pakistan-gendered-dynamics-of-international-labour-migration/
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.60528/112z87
Related Output
Documentshttps://thegenderhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/Migrant-Women-Working-in-Pakistan.pdf
Is supplemented byhttps://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-857011
LanguageEnglish
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Carles, I., Howard, E. and Kofman, E. 2011. Gendered experiences of racial discrimination: comparative socio-legal research. in: Schiek, D. and Lawson, A. (ed.) European Union Non-Discrimination Law and Intersectionality: investigating the triangle of racial, gender and disability discrimination Ashgate.
Insiders and outsiders: working with peer researchers in researching Muslim communities
Ryan, L., Kofman, E. and Aaron, P. 2011. Insiders and outsiders: working with peer researchers in researching Muslim communities. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 14 (1), pp. 49-60. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2010.481835
Migrant and minority women, inequalities and discrimination in the labour market.
Kofman, E., Roosblad, J. and Keuzenkamp, S. 2009. Migrant and minority women, inequalities and discrimination in the labour market. in: Kraal, K., Roosblad, J. and Wrench, J. (ed.) Equal opportunities and ethnic inequality in European Labour Markets: discrimination, gender and policies of diversity. Amsterdam University Press.
New migrants in England and their needs.
Kofman, E., Lukes, S., D'Angelo, A., Montagna, N., Di Florido, E. and Middlesex University Social Policy Research Centre 2007. New migrants in England and their needs. London Metropolitan Support Trust.
The equality implications of being a migrant in Britain.
Kofman, E., Lukes, S., D'Angelo, A., Montagna, N. and Midllesex University Social Policy Research Centre 2009. The equality implications of being a migrant in Britain. London Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Muslim youth in Barnet: exploring identity, citizenship and belonging
Ryan, L., Kofman, E. and Banfi, L. 2009. Muslim youth in Barnet: exploring identity, citizenship and belonging. London Barnet Muslim Engagement Partnership.
Thinking care through reproduction.
Kofman, E. 2009. Thinking care through reproduction. European Science Foundation Conference: A Caring Europe? Care, gender and migration. Open University, Milton Keynes 11 - 13 Nov 2009
Family migration in Europe: policies vs. reality.
Kraler, A. and Kofman, E. 2009. Family migration in Europe: policies vs. reality. Amsterdam, Netherlands IMISCOE.
Exploring intersectionality: age and gender in immigration policies.
Kofman, E. 2009. Exploring intersectionality: age and gender in immigration policies. Sixth Annual IMISCOE Conference. University of Stockholm, Sweden 09 - 11 Sep 2009
Gender, migration and globalisation: some feminist reflections.
Kofman, E. 2009. Gender, migration and globalisation: some feminist reflections. Connecting Feminist Geographies: Continuities and Differences across Time and Space. University of Reading 03 Dec 2009
Equality implications of the points based system.
Kofman, E. 2009. Equality implications of the points based system. The Points Based System: can it really make labour migration work for Britain?,. London 26 Nov 2009
Gendered migrations, policies and rights in the UK.
Kofman, E. 2007. Gendered migrations, policies and rights in the UK. in: Clarke, K., Maltby, T. and Kennett, P. (ed.) Social Policy Review 2007: analysis and debate in social policy. Bristol Policy Press.
Migration, ethnicity and entitlements in European welfare regimes
Kofman, E. 2006. Migration, ethnicity and entitlements in European welfare regimes. in: Guichon, A., Anker, C. and Novikova, I. (ed.) Women’s social rights and entitlements. Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 130-154
Migrant and minority women, inequalities and discrimination in the labour market.
Kofman, E., Roosblad, J. and Kreuzenkamp, S. 2009. Migrant and minority women, inequalities and discrimination in the labour market. in: Kraal, K., Roosblad, J. and Wrench, J. (ed.) Equal opportunities and ethnic inequality in European labour markets: discrimination, gender and policies of diversity. Amsterdam Amsterdam U. P..
Globalization: theory and practice.
Kofman, E. and Youngs, G. 2008. Globalization: theory and practice. New York Continuum.
Family migration in Europe: policies vs. reality
Kraler, A., Kofman, E. and Social Policy Research Centre Middlesex University 2009. Family migration in Europe: policies vs. reality. Amsterdam Amsterdam U. P..
Gender, remittances and migration: Latin Americans and Caribbeans in Europe
Kofman, E. and UNESCO 2006. Gender, remittances and migration: Latin Americans and Caribbeans in Europe. International Forum on the Social Science – Policy Nexus. Argentina and Uruguay 20 - 24 Feb 2006
Women migrants and refugees in the EU.
Kofman, E. 2003. Women migrants and refugees in the EU. Economic and social aspects of migration.. Brussels 21 - 22 Jan 2003 European Commission.
Family migration.
Kofman, E., Meetoo, V. and International Organization for Migration. (IOM) 2008. Family migration. in: World migration 2008: managing labour mobility in the evolving global economy. Geneva IOM.
The impact of family migration policies on migrants/ citizens affected by family migration policies.
Kofman, E., Kraler, A. and International Centre for Migration Policy Development 2007. The impact of family migration policies on migrants/ citizens affected by family migration policies. 22nd EMN Meeting (European Migration Network). Brussels 06 Jul 2007
Civic stratification, gender and family migration policies in Europe.
Kofman, E., Kraler, A. and International Centre for Migration Policy Development 2006. Civic stratification, gender and family migration policies in Europe. IMISCOE B3: European dynamics of citizenship public policies and migrant activities.. Central European University, Budapest 31 May - 02 Jun 2006
Family migration to United Kingdom: trends, statistics and policies.
Kofman, E., Lukes, S., Meetoo, V. and Aaron, P. 2008. Family migration to United Kingdom: trends, statistics and policies. Vienna International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
Family migration policies in the United Kingdom: actors, practices and concerns.
Kofman, E., Lukes, S. and Aaron, P. 2008. Family migration policies in the United Kingdom: actors, practices and concerns. Vienna International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
Family migration policies in France.
Kofman, E., Rogoz, M. and Levy, F. 2010. Family migration policies in France. Vienna International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).
Skilled female labour migration.
Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. 2009. Skilled female labour migration. Hamburg Hamburg Institute of International Economics.
The implications of migration for gender and care regimes in the south.
Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. 2009. The implications of migration for gender and care regimes in the south. Geneva UNRISD.
Gendered migrations: towards gender sensitive policies in the UK, asylum and migration.
Kofman, E., Raghuram, P. and Merefield, M. 2005. Gendered migrations: towards gender sensitive policies in the UK, asylum and migration. Institute of Public Policy Research.
Out of Asia: skilling, re-skilling and deskilling of female migrants.
Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. 2004. Out of Asia: skilling, re-skilling and deskilling of female migrants. Women's Studies International Forum. 27 (2), pp. 95-100.
Migration, citizenship and the reassertion of the nation-state in Europe.
Kofman, E. 2005. Migration, citizenship and the reassertion of the nation-state in Europe. Citizenship Studies. 9 (6), pp. 453-467.
Lutte contre la discrimination “raciale” au Royaume-Uni.
Kofman, E. and Lassalle, D. 2006. Lutte contre la discrimination “raciale” au Royaume-Uni. Migrations Société. 105 (6), pp. 153-165.
Beyond a reductionist analysis of female migrants in global European cities: the unskilled, deskilled and skilled.
Kofman, E. 2000. Beyond a reductionist analysis of female migrants in global European cities: the unskilled, deskilled and skilled. in: Marchand, M. and Runyan, A. (ed.) Gender and global restructuring. London Routledge. pp. 129-139
Civil rights and citizenship.
Kofman, E. 2008. Civil rights and citizenship. in: Agnew, J., Mitchell, K. and O'Tuathail, G. (ed.) A companion to political geography. Oxford Blackwell.
Political geography and globalization as we enter the twenty-first century.
Kofman, E. 2003. Political geography and globalization as we enter the twenty-first century. in: Kofman, E. and Youngs, G. (ed.) Globalization: theory and practice. London Continuum. pp. 17-31
Professional female immigration in post-war Europe: counteracting an historical amnesia.
Erel, U. and Kofman, E. 2003. Professional female immigration in post-war Europe: counteracting an historical amnesia. in: Ohliger, R., Schönwälder, K. and Triadafilopoulos, T. (ed.) European encounters: migrants, migration and European societies since 1945. Aldershot Ashgate. pp. 71-95
Genre et migration internationale: critique du réductionnisme théorique.
Kofman, E. 2004. Genre et migration internationale: critique du réductionnisme théorique. in: Hersent, M. and Zaidman, C. (ed.) Genre, travail et migrations en Europe. Paris CEDREF, [Centre d'enseignements, de recherches et de documentation pour les études féministes]. pp. 81-97
Henri Lefebvre: key writings
Lebas, E., Kofman, E. and Elden, S. 2003. Henri Lefebvre: key writings. London Continuum.
Recovery and re-appropriation in Lefebvre and Constant
Lebas, E. and Kofman, E. 2000. Recovery and re-appropriation in Lefebvre and Constant. in: Hughes, J. and Sadler, S. (ed.) Non-plan: essays on freedom, participation and change in modern architecture and urbanism. Oxford Architectural.
Gendered migrations and the globalisation of social reproduction and care: new dialogues and directions
Kofman, E. 2009. Gendered migrations and the globalisation of social reproduction and care: new dialogues and directions. in: Schrover, M. and Yeo, E. (ed.) Gender, Migration, and the Public Sphere, 1850-2005 Abingdon, UK Taylor & Francis (Routledge). pp. 118-139
Feminist transformations of political geography
Kofman, E. 2008. Feminist transformations of political geography. in: Cox, K., Low, M. and Robinson, J. (ed.) Handbook of Political Geography London, UK SAGE Publications.
Managing migration and citizenship in Europe: towards an overarching framework
Kofman, E. 2008. Managing migration and citizenship in Europe: towards an overarching framework. in: Gabriel, C. and Pellerin, H. (ed.) Governing international labour migration: current issues, challenges and dilemmas. London, UK Taylor & Francis (Routledge).
Branding cities: cosmopolitanism, parochialism and social change
Donald, S., Kofman, E. and Kevin, C. 2008. Branding cities: cosmopolitanism, parochialism and social change. London, UK Taylor & Francis (Routledge).
Gendered migrations: livelihoods and entitlements in European welfare regimes
Kofman, E. 2007. Gendered migrations: livelihoods and entitlements in European welfare regimes. in: Piper, N. (ed.) New perspectives on gender and migration: livelihood, rights and entitlements Taylor & Francis (Routledge). pp. 59-101
Gender and global labour migrations: incorporating skilled workers
Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. 2006. Gender and global labour migrations: incorporating skilled workers. Antipode. 38 (2), pp. 282-303. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2006.00580.x
Gender and skilled migration: into and beyond the work place
Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. 2005. Gender and skilled migration: into and beyond the work place. Geoforum. 36 (2), pp. 149-154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2004.06.001
Figures of the cosmopolitan: privileged nationals and national outsider.
Kofman, E. 2005. Figures of the cosmopolitan: privileged nationals and national outsider. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. 18 (1), pp. 83-97. https://doi.org/10.1080/1351161042000334808
Secure borders and safe haven and the gendered politics of belonging: Beyond social cohesion
Yuval-Davis, N., Anthias, F. and Kofman, E. 2005. Secure borders and safe haven and the gendered politics of belonging: Beyond social cohesion. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 28 (3), pp. 513-535. https://doi.org/10.1080/0141987042000337867
Feminist political geographies
Kofman, E. 2005. Feminist political geographies. in: Nelson, L. and Seager, J. (ed.) A Companion to Feminist Geography Oxford, UK Blackwell.
Citizenship, migration and the reassertion of national identity
Kofman, E. 2005. Citizenship, migration and the reassertion of national identity. Citizenship Studies. 9 (5), pp. 453-467. https://doi.org/10.1080/13621020500301221
Mapping women, making politics: feminist perspectives on political geography
Staeheli, L., Kofman, E. and Peake, L. 2004. Mapping women, making politics: feminist perspectives on political geography. New York, NY Taylor & Francis (Routledge).
Critically feminist geopolitics
Kofman, E. and Gilmartin, M. 2004. Critically feminist geopolitics. in: Staeheli, L., Kofman, E. and Peake, L. (ed.) Mapping women, making politics: feminist perspectives on political geography New York, NY Taylor & Francis (Routledge). pp. 113-126
Family-related migration: a critical review of European studies
Kofman, E. 2004. Family-related migration: a critical review of European studies. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 30 (2), pp. 243-262. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183042000200687
Gendered global migrations
Kofman, E. 2004. Gendered global migrations. International Feminist Journal of Politics. 6 (4), pp. 642-664. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461674042000283408
State, labour markets and immigration: overseas doctors in the UK.
Raghuram, P. and Kofman, E. 2002. State, labour markets and immigration: overseas doctors in the UK. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 34, pp. 2071-2089. https://doi.org/10.1068/a3541
Contemporary European migrations, civic stratification and citizenship
Kofman, E. 2002. Contemporary European migrations, civic stratification and citizenship. Political Geography. 21 (8), pp. 1035-1054. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0962-6298(02)00085-9
The invisibility of female skilled migrants and gender relations in studies of skilled migration in Europe
Kofman, E. 2000. The invisibility of female skilled migrants and gender relations in studies of skilled migration in Europe. International Journal of Population Geography. 6 (1), pp. 45-59. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1220(200001/02)6:1<45::AID-IJPG169>3.0.CO;2-B
Gender and international migration in Europe: employment, welfare and politics
Kofman, E., Phizacklea, A., Raghuram, P. and Sales, R. 2000. Gender and international migration in Europe: employment, welfare and politics. London, UK Taylor & Francis (Routledge).
Into the 1990s: a gendered agenda for political geography
Kofman, E. and Peake, L. 1990. Into the 1990s: a gendered agenda for political geography. Political Geography. 9 (4), pp. 313-336. https://doi.org/10.1016/0260-9827(90)90032-6