Women in Motion: Globalization, State Policies, and Labor Migration in Asia

Women in Motion: Globalization, State Policies, and Labor Migration in Asia

Women in Motion: Globalization, State Policies, and Labor Migration in Asia

Women in Motion: Globalization, State Policies, and Labor Migration in Asia


Women make up about half of the world's migrants, so it is little surprise that the international migration of women has been attracting significant attention in recent years. Most agree that global restructuring increasingly forces a large number of women in developing countries to emigrate to richer countries. But is poverty the only motivating factor?

In Women in Motion, Nana Oishi examines the cross-national patterns of international female migration in Asia. Drawing on fieldwork in ten countries- both migrant-sending and migrant-receiving- the author investigates the differential impact of globalization, state policies, individual autonomy, and various social factors. This is the first study of its kind to provide an integrative approach to and a comparative perspective on female migration flows from multiple countries.


Writing a book is often compared to having a child. Both entail similar processes: inception, development, and delivery. Each is a long and difficult effort requiring much perseverance. That is why many authors affectionately call their output a “baby.” I like this analogy very much, especially since giving birth to my real baby, Shinya, two years ago. At the same time, delivering this book was much harder in at least one way: I was “pregnant” with it for almost ten years!

International female migration—the theme of this book—has been my research interest since 1993, which was the year I joined the United Nations agency International Labour Organization, headquartered in Geneva. Once the number of migrant women began to surge in the 1980s, so did the number of cases of their mistreatment and abuse. the concerns of the international community were just beginning to grow at that time. in 1996, when I coauthored a report on the policy dimensions of women’s migration in Asia, I found myself stunned by the extent and severity of the abuse and exploitation that migrant women were experiencing; soon, I also grew frustrated with the limitations of international legal mechanisms. Many research questions and puzzles emerged as I began looking into the complexities of international female migration. All of these things became the seed for this book.

I took study leave from the ilo to tackle these issues. I was tempted to conduct ethnographic research that focused entirely on individual women, but in the end I established a broader framework, having decided that not nearly enough policy-oriented research had been done. Also, after being emotionally engulfed by so many stories of suffering migrant women during my work with the ilo, I wanted to step back and see the broader picture.

After completing the theoretical groundwork, I visited ten countries in Asia to conduct fieldwork. I knew that traveling alone through so many countries was going to be arduous, yet I felt compelled to interview migrant women, policy makers, and NGOs in person; this had not been possible for me until I entered academia. I traveled to major destinations of migrants such . . .

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