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We want productive workers, not fertile women: the expediency of employing Southeast Asian caregivers in Taiwan

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The lives of Southeast Asian caregivers in Taiwan are regulated by a number of laws and policy measures that preclude them from naturalisation, deprive them of a family life, restrict their residency, mobility and employment, and, in the past, have suspended their fertility. They are thus excluded from Taiwanese society and alienated as temporary, supplementary and disposable outsiders in line with broad public opinion. ‘Bringing the state back in’ to its analysis, this article argues that this legislation is not only market‐driven but socio‐politically expedient in that it sanctions the continued employment of foreign caregivers as productive workers rather than as fertile women, while simultaneously casting them as the undesirable other. Taiwan thus becomes a ‘migration state’ with an open economy but a closed national community. Drawing on key government sources as well as longitudinal social surveys, the article demonstrates how this state‐anchored expediency enjoys consistent public endorsement. In focusing on how and why Southeast Asian caregivers' fertility was suspended, it introduces a much‐needed gender perspective to our understanding of how migrant women become ‘disenfranchised class’ in the hostile guest worker system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-465
JournalAsia Pacific Viewpoint
Issue number3
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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