US Labor Day compels recall of study on women migration

by RUBEN JEFFREY ASUNCION
www.ofwjournalism.net

QUEZON CITY–A STUDY that concluded female migrate to the United States out of filial ties resonates as the nonprofit ethnic media organization behind the study focused on immigrants to celebrate Labor Day.

The New America Media group posted on its website a commentary by Manuel Pastor, Professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, which emphasized the importance of immigrants.

So much so that he advises taking a new method at viewing this phenomenon as a tool to solve the US ’s pending demographic problems.

Pastor’s commentary, which dedicated September 6 to immigrants, compels a review of the results of NAM’s survey titled “Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century.”

The study released last May bared that women immigrants move to the US to help their families start a new life in the country once touted as a nation founded by migrants.

According to United States Census data cited in the study, 49 percent of the total 18.9 million immigrants in the US as of 2007 are women.

Based on the survey of 1,002 respondents, the NAM study said female foreign immigrants move to the US primarily to join family members already living there.

The study said these women immigrants are generally professionals by the time they fuse into the American society.

Sixty-four percent of respondents who said they have Filipino ethnic origins told NAM they emigrated from the Philippines to “join family members already in the US”.

Of the total respondents, a hundred were Filipino women, more than half of whom lived in the US for more than 20 years. Respondents of Latin American, Arab, Asian, and African origins also participated in the survey conducted through random digit dialling and ethnic encoding methods.

The latter uses the first and last names in determining ethnicity. Still, Filipinos formed the largest percentage among the ethnic groups surveyed.

Forty-five of the Filipino women respondents said that once they arrived in the US , they focused their concern on helping their children “achieve critical success.”

Pastor’s commentary echoes such views as well as what the study noted. Contrary to popular perception, the study said migration had strengthened rather than weakened family ties because it motivates female migrants to work harder for their families.

Almost all respondents from all ethnic groups surveyed reported that they lived with their husbands within the same city and that most of them had already brought all their children below 18 to the US .

“In the 21st century, the face of the immigrant is of that of a mother,” the report said.

The face is also that of a wife, as 61 of the 65 married Filipino women respondents reported that they live together with their husbands in the same city.

Majority (76) of all Filipino women respondents said that none of their children under 18 were left behind in the Philippines when the family emigrated to the US. When asked if they will bring home their children if they are asked to go back to the Philippines, 58 Filipino women respondents said yes.

While a same percentage (26 percent) of respondents said that they are the head of households in the Philippines and the US, almost seven out of ten Filipino women respondents said that decisions pertaining to finances, family size, and sensitive family issues are arrived at in consensus with their husbands.

Still, more than half (56) said they have become more assertive in their roles as housewives when they migrated into the US.

This is not unique to Filipino women as respondents from other ethnic groups also reported that many of them became “head of the households” upon arriving in the US. Majority of them said decisions they make are also arrived at after discussion with their husbands.

“These findings are significant because they dispel the notion that immigration is breaking up families,” notes the report.

The study also noted that more than half of respondents from all groups, except the Vietnamese and Latin Americans, reported being professionals while still residing in their home countries.

The situation changed with their arrival in the US, with more than half of respondents from all ethnic groups reporting working in blue-collar jobs such as factory technicians, maids, waitresses and house cleaners, upon migrating to the US.

Six out of ten Filipino women respondents were white-collar workers before emigrating to the US. Seven out of ten Filipino women respondents said they have blue-collar jobs upon settling down in the US.

The study found out that 54 percent of Filipino women respondents said it took them less than three months to find a job in the US. Latin American and Korean respondents reported higher percentages of being able to find work three months after arriving in the US.

Four out of ten respondents from Vietnam, India and Africa reported not being able to find work within a year.

Upon finding work, two out of ten Filipino women respondents report as having earned $5OO-$1000 in their first job, well within the $500 average income of all respondents. Only 14 reported they earned $200-$500 while 41% of Koreans reported earning between $500-$1,000 on their first job.

But more Koreans received the highest salary among all ethnic groups in their current job –only 45 Filipino women respondents said they earn such level, $2,000, in their current work.

The study also found out that unlike other ethnic groups, women from the Philippines and India said they didn’t encounter difficulties in communication. Only eight Filipino women respondents claimed they had difficulty conversing in English when they arrived in the US . In contrast, seven out of ten respondents both from Vietnamese and Latin American origin said they didn’t speak English when they immigrated to the US.

Filipino and African women were among the most educated migrants while seven out of ten Latin American and Chinese respondents reported as finishing only either the primary or secondary levels of education, the study added.

Thirteen Filipino women respondents claimed that discrimination is a major problem for them.

“On Labor Day, it is important to remember that immigrant labor has been a key to economic growth, and it will continue to be in the future,” NAM said in its introduction to Pastor’s commentary.

Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, the California- headquartered NAM claims to be the first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations in the US.

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OFW Journalism Consortium