The mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers

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27 Scopus citations


This article identifies and examines the mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers, meaning the course of action they undertake to secure continuous employment. Mobility pathways refer not only to migratory practices and processes but also concern shifts in one’s employment, legal and social status. This article examines the mobility pathways of migrant domestic workers in order to interrogate the possibilities of socio-economic mobility allowed by their migration in a stratified global labour market. Drawing from 85 in-depth interviews conducted with Filipino migrant domestic workers employed in the key destination of the United Arab Emirates, this article identifies three salient mobility pathways of serial migration, staggered migration and return migration. It revisits our understanding in migration studies of the intersections of social and spatial mobility as it first establishes the salience of multi-national migrations, thus disrupting the assumption of the continuous settlement of migrants in any one destination, and second illustrates the social reproduction of poverty for unskilled migrant workers, thus dispelling the notion that migration offers an inevitable path to socio-economic mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • domestic workers
  • Mobility pathways
  • Philippines
  • social mobility
  • spatial mobility
  • United Arab Emirates


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