Incongruence between employment status and employment preference of married women in cross-border marriages


Chiu Tuen Yi, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

August 2015 – paper removed from website; citation will be provided upon publication.

Abstract: A considerable amount of empirical evidence has revealed that women in cross-border families have lower labour force participation rates (Choi, Cheung, & Cheung, 2012; Morrison & Lichter, 1988; DaVanzo, 1976; Duncan & Perrucci, 1976; Long, 1974), underscoring the impact of migration context and immigrant status on marriage migrants’ employment status. Nevertheless, these figures might be obscuring the true picture of marriage migrants’ employment, as the majority of these studies have not considered involuntary non-employment when calculating employment and unemployment rates. Without inquiring into the causes of the potential incongruence between employment status (behavioral outcomes) and employment preference (intentions to work), one may run the risks of, first, assuming those non-employed are not working voluntarily; second, neglecting potential workers who choose not to work for involuntary reasons; and third, leading to inaccurate estimates of the unemployment rates. To fill these gaps, this paper uses data from ethnography including participant observation and 41 in-depth interviews with marriage migrants and their husbands in Mainland-Hong Kong cross-border marriages to examine whether marriage migrants’ employment status is in congruence with their employment preference. The findings reveal that migration has exacerbated features of the traditional system of marriage and family, rendering marriage migrants’ potential agency to incorporate breadwinning into motherhood and daughterhood not realized. The approach adopted in this paper adds insights into theories of gender, migration and work by explicating how immigration intersects with gender to intervene in marriage migrants’ employment and how such incongruence can become a significant source of marital conflict.

Keywords: employment status and preference, marriage migration, cross-border families

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