Ukrainian Migrant Workers in Italy: Coping with and Reacting to Downward Mobility
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This article investigates the phenomenon of Ukrainian migrant women employed in the domestic and care sector in Italy. The analysis is based on a broad doctoral research carried out both in Ukraine and in Italy between 2005 and 2007. In particular, I investigate the subjective perception of downward mobility and how migrant women face this process of social devaluation and respond to it, taking into account that, in the case of Ukrainian female migration, the social skidding produced by migration goes hand in hand with the erosion of social and professional identity as experienced in their origin country during the 1990s. Thus, in order to comprehend the complexity of migration experiences it is necessary to analyse the migrants' whole life trajectories. The main results of the article are that Ukrainian migrant women give meaning to the process of devaluation by viewing it as an interlude in their life and as a sacrifice that serves to improve their families’ upward social mobility. Furthermore, in order to mitigate the social skidding and the asymmetrical relationships that characterise domestic work, they prefer to personalise the relationship with their employers and to avoid working for low educated and working class people. Finally, Ukrainian domestic workers react to the homogenisation engendered by migration by differentiating themselves both from other foreign nationals employed in the same sector, and from the ‘rough mass’ of their fellow countrywomen.
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