El Norte is One of Many Destinations in the Migration Shuffle
As work plays out in their native countries, Latin Americans move on to Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and neighboring countries that offer a better economic climate than the one they’re leaving.
Some are also fleeing armed conflicts, environmental degradation or the effects of natural disasters. Women can be escaping domestic violence, sexual abuse, or culture-specific customs that prevent growth and personal development.
Chile is currently one of the continent’s biggest magnets, with Argentineans, Bolivians and Peruvians tripling Chile’s foreign residents to nearly 300,000 in the last eight years. People from Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba and Mexico are also drifting in to work in the country. Making it even more attractive to migrants, Chile recently granted amnesty to 50,000 undocumented immigrants.
According to the most recent census, migration of Peruvian women to Chile rose from 50 percent of the total in 1992 to 60.8 percent in 2002, mainly due to the demand for domestic employees.
Nicaraguans are moving to Costa Rica to work as bus drivers. High tech, oil, entertainment industries and tourism are attracting professional immigrants to Brazil. Unskilled workers there are now so numerous they are forming a new, low-paid urban working class.
About 200,000 undocumented immigrants have moved to Canada, attracted to the strong Canadian dollar and a guest worker program between Canada and Mexico. Canada needs workers for the country’s tourism, construction and financial services industries. Nearly 20,000 Mexican farm workers migrate to Canada annually to work in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
By 2015, Dubai expects 75 million tourists to flood into the area, so this fast-growing Middle Eastern country is recruiting pilots and cargo handlers for its Emirates Airlines.
Migrants often do not stay in their adopted countries. They’ll save enough money to return to their home countries to purchase property or open businesses. Others find jobs with salaries large enough to send money home.
The lucky migrant workers do not experience discrimination or abuses of their labor rights. But many report long working hours, no employment contracts and no access to social benefits.
The statistics show that there are 180 million international migrants worldwide. Half of these are women, many of them travelling alone, usually in search of better labor markets. Latin American women migrate to neighbouring countries that have a higher level of development, the United States, and powerful countries in other regions, such as Spain and Japan.
Migrant women generally find jobs in domestic and caregiving work, street vending, or waitressing in bars and restaurants, even if they are qualified teachers, nurses or secretaries.
Migrant women can be vulnerable to racism, xenophobia, physical, psychological and sexual violence, forced labor, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. But many – generally young, single women with some professional training -- find good jobs, build strong emotional ties in the host countries, and improve their quality of life.
As long as a better life beckons just over the next border, migration will continue to be a fact of life.
Sources: Frontera NorteSur (FNS), Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico; et al
Tags: Migration , Economic Conditions , Latin America , Undocumented Migrants , Jobs
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