Migrant Domestic Workers as ‘Agents’ of Development in Asia

An Institutional Analysis of Temporality

in European Journal of East Asian Studies
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Temporary contract migration represents the predominant form of legal migration policy in Asia. With its rationale of the filling of jobs and provision of income-generating opportunities, it is linked to the migration–development nexus debate. This paper focuses on the impact of migrants’ agency as development actors within a transnational sphere. The mainstream migration–development nexus debate and policy prescriptions imagine diaspora groups as the ideal conduit for grassroots-driven development initiatives. While ‘diaspora group-led’ initiatives assume long-term, if not permanent, migration, temporary migration creates a dynamic that is fundamentally distinct. Temporality of migration, as mandated by bilateral agreements and promoted by global institutions in Asia, shapes migrant agency and migrants’ development aspirations in essentially different ways, but temporary contract migrants are nevertheless constructed as the ‘agents of development’ at the macro level of politics and policies, while receiving limited research attention. This paper analyses temporality, migrant agency and the migration–development nexus debate in relation to female domestic workers who epitomise the feminisation of migration and constitute the largest number of newly hired migrants in many key source countries in Southeast Asia. This introduces a gender dimension to our discussion of temporary migration in its link to migrants’ developmental agency.

Migrant Domestic Workers as ‘Agents’ of Development in Asia

An Institutional Analysis of Temporality

in European Journal of East Asian Studies




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