Accepted Paper:

Stability in an Adventurous Life? Filipino Domestic Workers in Hong Kong  

Author:

Ju-chen Chen (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

Migration does not by itself connote precarity, while resettlement may not result in stability. This paper aims at analyzing multiple perspectives of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong to understand migration and stillness.

Paper long abstract:

Filipino domestic workers use "searching for greener pastures" to explain why they are continuously "on the move" — job hopping, moving to different countries, or finding new partners. They explain: "Not everyone has the luck to find their greener pastures," to highlight the fruitlessness of their migration. They then laughed together and moved on.

Transnational labor migration is often considered an act of sacrifice — the migrants endure homesickness and demanding working conditions for their loved ones. Such migration is, therefore, a transitional and suspended period in lives. Based on my ethnographic research with Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, I found that, while migrants do come and go, many of them also stayed for decades. From the perspective of these veterans, Hong Kong is their city. They have plenty of strategies to cope with their circumscribed lives to build a pleasant enough lifestyle. Even for "newbies" who are in the city for much shorter times, uncertainty and precarity are not necessarily the feelings they have. They live every day as normal and stable as other residents of the city do. Like the conversation regarding "greener pastures" showed, I argue that the goal of migrant domestic workers is not finding the greener pastures, but preserving the opportunity to keep searching, adventure, and stay on the move. Migration does not by itself connote precarity, while resettlement may not result in stability. This paper aims at analyzing these multiple and sometimes contradictory perspectives in understanding migration and stillness.

Panel P111
Trapped in space, stuck in time? Exploring irregular migration, time and im/mobility