Discussion 5 – Interviews and Fieldwork

My fieldwork regularly takes me to Southeast Asia to study the ‘”feminization of labor migration“. While in the field I employ common ethnographic methods such as observations and interviews. Before going into the field I collect a vast amount of information from existing data sources (see Unobtrusive Research in your textbook). I look at statistics from the National Statics Office of the Philippines. I conduct content analysis of newspaper stories in the English press of Taiwan. Of course, I also conduct a literature review to see what new publications there are on my topic.

Over the course of the past decade of doing this research, I’ve learned that the Philippines has become one of today’s leading exporters of migrants. This migration flow largely results from internal demographic and economic pressures, but has also been brought about by the policy decisions of the Philippine government which sees potential relief from remittances and reduction of unemployment. The continued cycling of labor migrants for more than 30 years has resulted in a “culture” of migration.  Destinations for temporary labor migrants are influenced as well by demographic determinants such as low birth rates in the destination country, leading to a need for laborers, and high birth rates in the sending country, leading to surplus laborers. In the last fifteen years, Taiwan has become a common destination for Southeast Asian workers employing over 100,000 laborers from the Philippines in electronics, fabrication, and textile industries, as well as employing them in Taiwanese homes as domestic workers, nurses, and caretakers for the elderly.

The situation of Filipina workers in Taiwan is one of dis-empowerment of women. It is representative of the global labor market which shifts more and more of the burden of low paying, manual work to those from developing countries. Philippine women must not only support their families in the home country, keep afloat the economy and future development of the Philippines, but also produce cheap goods for mass consumption in the Global North while caring for sick and elderly, cleaning and cooking, and caring for the children of elites in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

I want you to watch the following video on migrant workers from the Philippines who are living now in Taiwan as domestic workers. This video was compiled from my interviews and fieldwork conducted in 2003 in the south of Taiwan.

Remember this class is not about labor migration. It is about research methods, so I want you to watch more for the process and method employed than for content. Listen to the interview questions. Watch how interviews are conducted. Listen for probes and followup questions. Who do I interview? How do I get relevant information from the interviewees? What problems do I encounter in these interviews? Was the interview method appropriate for gathering this kind of data? What other methods could be employed?

Post a 300 word analysis of the video, then discuss your observations with your classmates.

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