Female migrant workers in greece

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What can I say? I have to live, don’t I? My children have to have bread and education. This is the only reason why I work 10-16 hours a day, almost everyday. I hope that one day I will have a better life. I thank God for having a roof over my head” These are the words of an Albanian immigrant [December 1999].

Migration is not new to the late twentieth century. Colonialism had propelled movements of free and unfree people across the world. Between 1810 and 1921 for example 34 million Europeans emigrated to the US alone. Greece started receiving significant numbers of migrants in the late 1970s and soon became known as “the new immigration country”. This situation was dictated by geographic, economic and social-demographic factors. The country had historically been “sender” rather than “receiver” of migrants. Thus it was totally unprepared in terms of experience or social infrastructure to deal with new wave of immigration.

These new migration trends have given rise to more distinct forms of racism in society, shaped by past and present realities. In the labour market immigrants are legally differentiated, socially discriminated against, and economically exploited with illegal status facilitating labour market ghettoization.

An important characteristic of immigration has been its high female component. Unlike earlier migration waves, rising numbers of women migrate independently and not as associational migrants. The contemporary global trend is toward a “feminization of migration”. The nationalities in which women are nearly absent are the Pakistani, the Bangladeshi, the Indian, the Syrian and the Egyptian. Among the major source countries of female migration to Greece is from the Philippines, the Ukraine and Moldova.

The reasons for this change in the case of Greece include a] The expansion in the educational system and increased labour force participation of Greek women, coupled with an increased “reverse” transfer of tasks from the state to the household, such as services to the young and the elderly, results in increased opportunity for migrant women b] the application of new technologies and the great change in service economies provides increased opportunities for both native and immigrant women c] the generally slow economic development in the less developed and ex-socialist countries with persisting and deeply rooted structural poverty with gender dimensions, accelerates labour migration and contributes to its feminization.

Due to the great extent of illegal migration and residence, official statistics in Greece provide limited or even contradictory information about the resident immigration population. According to latest official data and estimates, Greece with a total population of 10,900 [ten point nine million] people, is estimated to have 110.0000-1200.000 [one point one million to one point two million] immigrants, representing 10,3% of the population. Regardless of whether these are immigrant stocks or represent complex flow patterns, Greece still has the highest proportion of immigrants among Southern European countries and possibly the highest in the EU as well.

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