Global householding, care migration and the question of gender inequality

Concerned with the links between migration, household reproduction and the reproduction of societies in an age of globalisation, this paper draws on Douglass’ (2006) formulation of “global householding” to emphasise the view that the reproduction of social and economic life is increasingly reliant on the international movement of people and transactions among family members residing across national borders. In particular, since the 1990s, domestic service work has taken on a transnational dimension with large numbers of women from the world’s less developed nations migrating to work as lowly paid domestics performing care work and other forms of household labour in developed countries, often under retrogressive conditions, in response to global economic restructuring. Despite their often marginalised positions, female migrant domestic workers are vital contributors to the maintenance and well-being of both their left-behind as well as host families, both local and transnational communities and ultimately, both the receiving and sending nation-states. Using the case of domestic work migration in Southeast Asia (e.g. from Indonesia to Singapore), this paper examines how gender inequality is both a pre-condition as well as a growing effect of the transnational provisioning of everyday and generational care at both ends of care migration. It also explores how the social relation of “care” (e.g. childcare, eldercare) may be conserved, reconstituted or ruptured in the process of householding on a transnational scale.