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Int Migr Rev. 1984 Winter;18(4 Spec No):886-907.

Birds of passage are also women.



Migrant women from poor countries represent a labor supply which is, at once, the most vulnerable, flexible and, at least in the beginning, the least demanding. They are incorporated into sexually segregated labor markets at the lowest stratum in high-tech industries or at the cheapest sectors in labor intensive industries. They bear the brunt of the ideology of racism and an insecure political and legal status as all migrants do, which along with gender discrimination and class exploitation, contribute to their vulnerability. For instance, after the 1974 halt on further labor immigration, the Western European receiving countries imposed either a complete ban or waiting periods for entry into the labor market for the spouces who joined migrants already in these countries. This regulation concerned non-EEC citizens, mostly women. In the absence of legitimate employment opportunities, these women turned to illegal employment. For employers, there are obvious advantages in hiring illegal labor--tax violation, flexibility, and non-application of labor legislation. Legally, these women are defined as dependents,' in keeping with the Western ideology where man is the breadwinner, whether this dependency is real or not. Thus, there stay is linked to the legal status of their migrant husbands. The work of native and migrant women do not always conform to the prevailing definition of 'work,' and therefore, not often recognized as an economic activity in data collection. In the process of migration and incorporation into waged employment, women may experience either increased exploitation, or, may gain greater independence and an awareness that their situation can be changed. The changes in women's position are a function of the socioeconomic and cultural context in which they take place, and are related to their role in production, social status in the place of origin, employment opportunities in the receiving areas for men as well as women, and finally, migration patterns and reasons for migration. Migration tends to be treated as a phenomenon involving young males seeking economic betterment. There is need for better understanding of migration of women.

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