Thursday, May 26, 2016


After this excursion through different models of gendered mobility between ENP countries and the EU, we now come back to our initial question. What are the limits of ENP policies regarding female migration across the eastern and southern Mediterranean? To date the ENP framework does not seem to have taken significant steps to promote a safe and autonomous migration specifically for women from the ENP to the EU. The cases of Moroccan fruit pickers in Spain and Ukrainian domestic workers in Poland show how women’s labour opportunities are predominantly characterised by temporariness, difficult working conditions and poor legal protection. There is a transnational hierarchy that confines women to care and domestic work, or to the seasonal agricultural sectors, which are all variably located across a continuum of illegality, exploitation and invisibility. In both the countries of origin and destination women suffer from economic and structural disadvantages. Migrant women come into sight as transnational figures more suitable to find work in flexible (agriculture) or gender-biased (domestic and care) labour markets. At the same time, they are far from being prospective full citizens in the countries of destination; on the contrary, they are destined to short periods of stay, invisibility and to being on the margins of social and civil entitlements. The type of circular migration they are embedded in, moreover, allows for the welfare costs to be totally upheld by the country of origin. 
From the perspective of ENP frameworks and categorisations, migrant women do not seem to fall into the category of the economically rewarding working migrant “who sends remittances,” nor into that of the entrepreneur who facilitates trade across the borders, nor finally into that of the cultural mediators that spurs innovation amongst his/her diaspora fellow members. 
The case of Moldovans in Italy might be seen as the exception to this overall view, but the specific connotation of the employment available to these working women in the Italian home care sector (thus very isolated, badly remunerated and socially stigmatised) prevents them from becoming transformative social actors, either in the country of origin or of destination. It is also a sector where migrant women cannot generally  fulfil their aspirations by capitalising on their education and the work experience they have accumulated in the country of origin, resulting in their gradual deskilling. Domestic work, in general, comes into sight as a significantly double-edged job opportunity for migrants, as far as it offers employment on the fringes of an EU labour market, in a sector characterised by lack of rights and by a scarce economic and social mobility. 

It is on these grounds that we formulate the following policy recommendations to improve conditions for migrant women in the ENP area:

  •  1. Enhance mobility partnerships for permanent work (i.e. along the lines of the Moldova-Italy agreement, not the Morocco-Spain agreement) between all countries of the European Neighbourhood and the EU member states;
  •  2. Avoid limitations to the employment of migrant women in which their family situation is used as a parameter for assessing their suitability for the work; 
  • 3. Promote the entrance of women in non-traditionally precarious and flexible labour sectors. This can be done, for example, by facilitating the recognition of their previous study and work careers in the countries of origin;
  • 4. Facilitate labour employment for those who have arrived in Europe as family migrants and who also have an interest in being economically active, which can also favour their integration into the country more generally; 
  • 5. Finally, promote the active role of women as transnational actors between ENP countries and the European Union, by designing specific policy tools for gender mainstreaming in this field.

 Such provisions would help the EU to meet its proclaimed interest in enhancing gender equality in neighbouring countries. At present, the EU is not always critical of the gender biases of migrants’ countries of origin, but, rather, reproduces strong gender stratifications and inequalities in its ENP approach to migration. To embrace the recommendations above would help to overcome the current gender blindness in ENP migration policies which seem to position migrant women along a geographical and gendered hierarchy of care and domestic work, or low paid and gendered and racially constructed seasonal agricultural work, which reifies their roles as “carers with extra work burdens” rather than as workers. This could be a first step to dismantle the gendered (and racialised) material and discursive devices that structure women’s mobility across the eastern and southern Mediterranean.

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