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Transnational Communities Programme

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Gender, Households and Identity in British and Singaporean Migration to China

Short Summary / Long Description

Researchers
Dr Katie Willis
Department of Geography
University of Liverpool
PO Box 147
Liverpool L69 3 BX
 
Dr Brenda Yeoh
Department of Geography
National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge Crescent
Singapore 119260
 
Contact
Dr Katie Willis
Tel: 0151-794-2877
Fax: 0151-794-2866
Email: kwillis@liv.ac.uk
 
Duration of Research
September 1998 - June 2001

Short Summary

Background

The international migration of professional workers has increased in scope over the past twenty years as skilled workers are needed when companies’ activities cross national borders. While this trend has been recognised from an economic perspective, very little has been researched from a social angle. In particular, there has been scant attention paid to the gender composition of this population movement, and the impacts of such migration on households, particularly on women’s work patterns and the organisation of domestic work. This project will focus on these issues, using the case studies of British and Singaporean migration to China. This comparison is of great interest because it allows the effect of cultural differences (both business culture and social norms regarding gender and the family) to be considered.

Study Design

The main source of information will be 150 in-depth interviews in the UK, Singapore and China. Four groups of interviewees have been identified: migrant professional workers; accompanying spouses; spouses remaining ‘at home’ while partner deployed overseas; professional and managerial workers in the UK and Singapore who do not migrate, although foreign postings are possible in their companies. Interviews will also be conducted with appropriate individuals such as government officials and personnel managers.

Policy Implications

The overseas deployment of professional personnel is of key importance to the success of individual companies and, by extension, their home country. This project will provide important material for policy formulation both in the UK and in Singapore. Firstly, it will provide a summary of the nature of professional migration, including extent, destination and the characteristics of the migrants. Secondly, it will highlight the decision-making process and the problems experiences by both migrating and non-migrating households. This may help companies in developing strategies to assist migrants and so contribute to successful redeployment.


Gender, Households and Identity in British and Singaporean Migration to China

Long Description

Profile

Katie Willis is Lecturer in Geography at the University of Liverpool. She was educated at Oxford (BA, MPhil, DPhil). Her research interests focus on issues around gender and household strategies with particular attention to the intersection of gender and class. Her research has been mainly undertaken in Mexico and South-East Asia.

Brenda Yeoh is Senior Lecturer in Geography at the National University of Singapore. She was educated at Cambridge (BA), National University of Singapore (DipEd) and Oxford (DPhil). Her research interests are wide-ranging, including foreign domestic workers in Singapore, the construction of Singaporean national identity, and the historical geography of Singapore.

Aims and Objectives

The international migration of professional workers has increased in scope over the past twenty years as skilled workers are needed when companies’ activities cross national borders. While this trend has been recognised from an economic perspective, very little has been researched from a social angle. In particular, there has been scant attention paid to the gender composition of this population movement, and the impacts of such migration on households, particularly on women’s work patterns and the organisation of domestic work. This project will focus on these issues, using the case studies of British and Singaporean migration to China. This comparison is of great interest because it allows the effect of cultural differences (both business culture and social norms regarding gender and the family) to be considered. There are five main research questions:

  • To what extent and in what capacity are women involved in the skilled labour migration to China from the UK and Singapore?
  • What are the motivations behind migration and non-migration, and the gendered aspects of these motivations?
  • How does skilled international migration affect the household strategies adopted by Britons and Singaporeans in China?
  • How does relocation to China affect Britons’ and Singaporeans’ social identities?
  • Do British and Singaporean migrants in China differ in the household strategies adopted, migration motivations and processes of identity renegotiation?

Methodology

The main source of information will be 150 in-depth interviews in the UK, Singapore and China (Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong). Four groups of interviewees have been identified: migrant professional workers; accompanying spouses; spouses remaining ‘at home’ while partner deployed overseas; professional and managerial workers in the UK and Singapore who do not migrate, although foreign postings are possible in their companies. The interviews will include discussions of employment, housework, decision-making within the household, attitudes towards migration and questions of identity. Interviews will also be conducted with appropriate individuals such as government officials and personnel managers.

Academic and Policy implications

In the academic sphere this project aims to achieve three main objectives: firstly, to highlight the micro-level aspects of foreign direct investment in China, with specific emphasis on the household level; secondly, to contribute to the theoretical debates regarding gender and migration, focusing particularly on the usually-ignored migration of professionals; thirdly, to investigate the importance of cultural norms in the source country and the institutional framework for personnel deployment, on migration experiences.

The overseas deployment of professional personnel is of key importance to the success of individual companies and, by extension, their home country. This project will provide important material for policy formulation both in the UK and in Singapore. Firstly, it will provide a summary of the nature of professional migration, including extent, destination and the characteristics of the migrants. Secondly, it will highlight the decision-making process and the problems experiences by both migrating and non-migrating households. This may help companies in developing strategies to assist migrants and so contribute to successful redeployment.


 

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