Dilemmas of Community: Reflections on Transmigrant  Working Women in Qatar

Dilemmas of Community: Reflections on Transmigrant Working Women in Qatar

Shefali Jha

Abstract


The six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have, since the 1980s, attracted a large number of workers from South and Southeast Asian nations. In more recent years, increasingly more women from these countries have found paid employment in the Gulf. Whereas expatriate male workers largely join the construction industry in the Gulf countries, expatriate women work in domestic labor, the hospitality industry, beauty parlors and hospitals, and as teachers, office secretaries and accountants. Even though their residence permits have to be renewed every year, many of them spend as many as ten to twenty years working in the Gulf. These expatriate working women thus, both occupy, and construct transnational social fields. How do these expatriate women, workers from outside, set up new networks of their own to survive their location in transnational spaces? This article undertakes a comparative analysis of the experience of Filipina and Indian working women in the Arabian Gulf country of Qatar in terms of their integration in the Qatari economy and their survival strategies. Employment in most of the GCC countries, including Qatar, is governed by the kafala or the sponsorship system, the provisions of which are often used by the local employers to take advantage of the transmigrant workers. Caught between the practices of the states that they come from and the states that they work in, the transmigrant working women depend on local networks that they set up among their co-nationals in order to be able to negotiate the kafala system and to benefit from their experience of transmigration.


Keywords


transnationalism; kafala; gender; networks; state policies

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ISSN: 2002-3596
License NidabaCC BY-NC-ND 4.0
License photograph: VAM Nisaba Lagasch by Wolfgang Sauber CC BY-SA 3.0