Migration infrastructure, moral economy, and intergenerational injustice in mother-and-child migration from the Philippines to Japan

Fiona-Katharina Seiger

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In this paper, I discuss how a legal amendment in Japan’s Nationality law, in force since 2009 and celebrated as a victory for children’s rights, soon opened new opportunities for labour brokers to send Japanese-Filipino offspring and their Filipina mothers to work in Japanese care-giving facilities and in factories. While the processes of recruitment, selection, training and placement resemble those commonly followed by commercial migrant brokers in the Philippines, Japanese descendants and their Filipina parent travel to Japan on family-related visas enabling their brokers to skirt some of the regulations set by the Philippine state. The recent cross-border mobility of Japanese-Filipinos and their mothers to Japan shows that migration infrastructure is a patchwork stitched from regulatory loopholes and opportunities, commercial responses, humanitarian counter-dynamics, and individual plans and desires. I address how migration infrastructure is interrelated with the perpetuation of socio-economic inequality and the moral economy of migration, as (would-be) migrants’ limited recourse to legal instruments and cross-border mobility creates a dependence on intermediaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-723
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For decades, women’s and migrants’ rights activists have sought to interrupt the reproduction of inequalities by discouraging their clients from seeking employment in Japan they deemed exploitative. Instead, DAWN, the Batis Center for Women and Maligaya House tried to secure paternal recognition and financial support from Japanese fathers. However, discouraging Japanese-Filipinos and their mothers from seeking lowly paid and difficult jobs in Japan has led many NGO-clients to search for opportunities and information elsewhere. Old and newly established organizations in the Philippines operating under the banner of non-profit organizations or foundations recruit eligible Japanese-Filipinos and their mothers and match them with employers in Japan, oftentimes for a substantial fee.

Funding Information:
The Japan Foundation(22RE942); Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS/OF1/482).

Funding Information:
Supported by the Tokyo-based CNJFC and the JFC Lawyers Association also referred to as ‘Lawyers Association for JFC’ (JFC Network , 15).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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