Explain what the “international transfer of caretaking” means and how it works.
As a distinct form of the international division of labor, “international transfer of caretaking” means a social phenomenon in which reproductive labor such as housework and childrearing in a developed country are performed by immigrant women from a developing country. This international system of division of labor is maintained by a three-tier transfer of reproductive labor among women in two countries: (1) middle class women in receiving countries, mostly economically advanced countries, (2) immigrant domestic workers coming from developing countries, and (3) domestic workers staying in the developing countries and remaining poor.
On the one hand, the international transfer of caretaking is closely related to the expansion of global capitalism. Before the development of global economy system, the division of reproductive labor was carried out within a nation. For example, in the U.S., class-privileged white women have freed themselves of reproductive labor by purchasing low-wage services of women of color, namely by the system of racial division of reproductive labor. However, as the expansion of global capitalism, domestic workers coming from a developing country, for instance, Filipino women (Parrenas 2002), make possible international-level division of reproductive labor by providing cheaper labor force.
On the other hand, commodification of reproductive work and gender stratification as a universal phenomenon across nations form the basis of the international transfer of caretaking. Unequal gender ideology does not guarantee a gender egalitarian distribution of housework in spite of women’s higher income. Thus, class-privileged women in developed countries hire low-
wage women coming from developing countries as domestic workers. Subsequently migrant
women purchase the even lower-wage services of poorer women left behind in their own country to perform the reproductive labor that they are performing for wealthier women in the developed countries.
The main reason that the international division of labor is maintained is the unequal economic standing of nation-states and discrepancies in monetary currencies. Even if there is not much difference in the reproductive labor of women working at developed and developing countries, domestic workers hired in developed countries can earn enough money to hire other women to do the same work in their own country due to the difference of the wage for domestic works and the discrepancies in monetary currency between two countries.