Jo Morris shares her knowledge on women migrant workers and the challenges they face.
A large proportion of garment workers in most countries are also migrant workers, often internal, but sometimes international as well. Migrant workers face additional discrimination and difficulties due to the shift from rural to urban environments; the loss of support networks; class, caste or ethnic bias; language barriers, and the dangers of dormitory living.
Research by ILO Better Work indicates that migrants tend to be outside the protection of national cultural norms and so are more vulnerable. For workers who are women, young and migrants, the challenges can overlap and multiply, as demonstrated in phenomena such as the sumangali forced labour scheme in South India.
Similarly, wage improvement efforts need to address the needs – and effects – of migrant workers. For example, in some countries, migrant workers are often part of the informal economy. Unless strategies are found to improve conditions for migrant workers, or to move them into formal employment, a large pool of economically insecure low paid workers in precarious conditions risks undercutting progress towards living wages in the more formal economy. Migrant workers, like all workers, need to be brought into secure formal employment relationships.
Migrant women in precarious situations face a range of extra risks for discrimination and gender-based violence at work, and have more to lose by complaining or not being ‘compliant’.
Migrant worker participation in social dialogue, particularly at the factory level, can be affected by a range of biases against migrants. Especially migrant women in precarious situations face a range of extra risks for discrimination and gender-based violence at work, and have more to lose by complaining or not being ‘compliant’. Later in our blogs we will cover some of the risks for women who complain about workplace sexual harassment.
Jo Morris is Visiting Professor in Practice, London School of Economics and Political Science, Gender Institute. She is FWF’s gender expert.