9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Gender and Care Building II, C4.01

Women migrants and care work in the South of Italy


Several research works and analyses have identified a close link between the changes brought about by globalisation and the feminization of migration. Within these macro-processes, some profound differences can be detected among different patterns of migration, their underlying reasons and the meanings attached to female immigration in the different countries of destination. In the richest countries, care work is also undergoing a crucial commodification process. However, this outsourcing process involves individual, face-to-face relationships. The care of children, of disabled people, and of the elderly, besides house cleaning tasks, are generally entrusted to some specific people and they embrace some extremely complex relational spheres, which go far beyond the contractual relationship that formally regulates them. This study is particularly concerned with these relationships and examines the Italian situation as a case study. In Italy, women immigrants are not only an asset for the high and middle classes, but they are more and more frequently employed by the petty and medium bourgeoisie, sometimes working in single-income families. This is the case especially in Southern Italy, where local women find it extremely hard to enter the labour market. This widespread use of home helpers can be partly ascribed to the fact that the family still plays a key role in social mediation. Women are still key actors in this complex network of social relationships and institutional roles. They tend to bear the burden and the cost of transformation processes that are taking place in society. The Italian welfare system has always delegated the satisfaction of everyday needs to the family and, hence, to women. Nowadays, this task has become increasingly arduous, due to the new pace and needs of social reproduction. The aim of the research is to deal with such questions, adopting an intersectional approach (Crenshaw, 1991)- focusing on the evidence that domestic work created specific forms of social marginality - and racialization - for migrant women, though it paradoxically allowed Italian women to convey their new social identities within and outside the family. The research will thus present the results of a quantitative survey, and the outcomes of a qualitative investigation.