‘Sometimes, men cannot do what women can’: Pacific labour mobility, gender norms and social reproduction

Kirstie Petrou
Matt Withers

Australia’s 2018 introduction of the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) broadened the scope and duration of labour mobility pathways available to Pacific Island countries. Although longer term temporary migration schemes like the PLS expand livelihood opportunities for migrant households, they also create challenges related to the maintenance of personal relationships and care practices during transnational family separation. Though pressing concerns for Pacific Island governments, these issues have received little scholarly attention. Drawing on in-depth interviews with migrants and their households in Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, this article offers some preliminary insights into the way gender norms intersect with the reorganization of socially reproductive labour during migration. Findings indicate that women were disproportionately involved in the performance of additional unpaid care work within migrant households adjusting to transnational family life, but also suggest that women’s participation in labour mobility may offer nascent opportunities to increase financial autonomy and social standing through the act of ‘remitting care’.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
April 18, 2024
Published in

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