Monday, May 23, 2016


Figures 3 and 4 show how Moldovan women’s presence in Italy, although not being the most significant in terms of numbers (fewer than Ukrainians or Moroccans), offers some interesting elements in support of the argument of this article. In 2010 Moldovan emigrants were estimated at 21 percent of the country’s population, with about 20 percent of them in Italy.34 Italy is today the most important destination for women from Moldova: since the early 2000s their numbers have steadily grown, reaching today the 100,000 mark (see Figure 4). This is an interesting case of highly gendered migration which, contrary to the example above of Ukrainians in Poland, is mainly based on permanent migratory projects and the opportunity for formal access to the labour market. The permanent character of this migration finds evidence in the work of Pia Pinger who emphasised how the persistent poverty of Moldovan families is a deterrent for migrant women who want to return, given the lack of opportunities open to them back home.35 For Pinger, it is important to consider that Moldovan women migrating to countries such as Italy need longer periods of work before they are able to compensate for the economic efforts that have served to finance their initial emigration.36

 It goes without saying that the expansion of the private market for home care service has had a deep impact on labour opportunities for Moldovan women in Italy and so on the level of immigration.37 Italy is one of the European countries where the private market of home-based elderly care provided by migrant women has been established for the longest time – since the end of the 1970s – and where it has grown extensively: today, 88.6 percent of the Italian private service sector is made up of women and 81 percent by migrants.38 It is relatively easy for foreigners to access this job sector, in comparison with what happens in other countries. Regularisations are the main gate of access in the context of Italian migration policy, and indeed domestic and care workers have received special treatment in the regularisation of 2002, with the extension of the applications deadline. In 2009 the government took further special measures to favour these workers with an ad hoc regularisation. This has resulted in a general increase in the official numbers of foreigner workers in this sector. Finally, it is important to consider that, in the yearly allocation of quotas for migrants, the government always assigns a relatively high number of permits to prospective care and domestic workers from specific countries of origin, included Moldova. 

More generally, the arrival of Moldovan women in Italy has been clearly facilitated by specific government provisions. Indeed, official data on Moldovans’ presence in Italy have boomed after the government’s launch of a regularisation process for undocumented migrant workers in 2002: with 29,471 applications, their (official) presence in Italy has multiplied five times.39 Again in 2009, at the time of a regularisation directed only to undocumented workers in the care and domestic sector, Moldovans have been incredibly active by submitting 26,605 applications.40 Furthermore, Moldova and Italy have established a bilateral agreement for workers’ recruitment, which was signed in 2003 and renewed in 2011.41 There is therefore an ad hoc quota for Moldovans in the yearly state decree which regulates the quotas for new foreign workers in Italy. Between 2002 and 2010, more than 27,000 Moldovans entered Italy through these quotas, without counting those that, as domestic workers, could also apply for the 290,000 vacancies in the quotas for this sector.42 More recently, in 2008, Moldova signed a visa facilitation agreement with the whole European Union which was followed by a visa exemption for Moldovans entering the Schengen area for short stays, starting from 28 April 2014. It is thus an open question as to how this last facilitation will affect the movement of Moldovan women to the EU and Italy in particular. The case of women’s migration from Moldova and Italy thus stands in opposition to the three cases that we have previously illustrated. Without forgetting the ample margins of undocumented migration that still persist between Moldova and Italy, as well as the difficult conditions in which regular migrants perform their jobs in the home care and domestic sectors, it is nevertheless important to reflect upon the way this case can serve as an example for other countries There is no doubt that the legal and permanent employment in the domestic sector offers women the opportunity for an autonomous type of mobility, in which they can potentially engage in an activity independently from their husbands or fathers’ will. It allows them to earn a living and take on the role of breadwinner for their transnational households, which they are often able to reunify in Italy. The less precarious legal conditions allow for better conditions of employment, and, under these conditions, domestic work may provide a working and living space that can be relatively safer for women than the conditions they face in factories or agriculture. However, the field of domestic work in Italy is still often low paid, with precarious working conditions, a lack of rights and, in some cases, subject to sexual and physical abuse. Moreover, workers complain that such work does not allow them to climb the social ladder towards more rewarding occupations, more in line with their educational backgrounds.

32 Marta Kindler and Monika Szulecka, “The Economic Integration of Ukrainian and Vietnamese Migrant Women in the Polish Labour Market”, in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4 (2013), p. 649-671.
33 Ewa Palenga-Möllenbeck, “Care Chains in Eastern and Central Europe: Male and Female Domestic Work at the Intersections of Gender, Class, and Ethnicity”, in Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, Vol. 11, No. 4 (2013), p. 364-383.

34 World Bank, Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011, 2nd ed., Washington, World Bank, 2011,; Ummuhan Bardak (ed.), Labour Markets and Employability. Trends and Challenges in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2011,
35 Pia Pinger, “Come Back or Stay? Spend Here or There? Return and Remittances: The Case of Moldova”, in International Migration, Vol. 48, No. 5 (October 2010), p. 142- 173,
36 See Dennis Görlich and Christoph Trebesch, “Mass Migration and Seasonality: Evidence on Moldova’s Labour Exodus”, in Kiel Advanced Studies Working Papers, No. 435 (May 2006),
37 Sabrina Marchetti and Alessandra Venturini, “Mothers and Grandmothers on the Move: Labour Mobility and the Household Strategies of Moldovan and Ukrainian Migrant Women in Italy”, in International Migration, Vol. 52, No. 5 (October 2014), p. 111-126
38 Italian Ministry of Labour, Secondo rapporto annuale sul mercato del lavoro degli immigrati, July 2012,
39 ISTAT, Permessi di regolarizzazione concessi in base alle leggi n. 189/2002 e n. 222/2002 per area geografica e principali paesi di cittadinanza, per sesso al 1° gennaio 2004, 2004,
40 Italian Ministry of Interiors, Colf e badanti, i dati riepilogativi al 5 luglio, 12 July 2010, mpa/notizie/immigrazione/0076_2010_07_12_colf_badanti.html_1728265669.html.
41 Marta Giuliani, Franco Pittau and Antonio Ricci (eds.), Visa Policy as Migration Channel in Italy, Rome, EMN Italy and IDOS, 2012,
42 Sabrina Marchetti, Daniela Piazzalunga and Alessandra Venturini, “Costs and Benefits of Labour Mobility between the EU and the Eastern Partnership Countries Country Study: Italy”, in IZA Discussion Papers, No. 7635 (September 2013), p. 67,

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