Migrant women and the perceived importance of waged labour: encountering nordic welfare society

Minna Säävälä, Population Research Institute, The Family Federation of Finland

Waged employment is considered as one of the key factors in the integration of immigrants in their host societies. In a Nordic society such as Finland women’s labour participation rate is very high and full-time employment for women the norm. Among immigrant women, labour force participation is much lower than among the native population, and unemployment rates are high. In the situation of ageing population structure, immigrant women could be potential labour force, especially for the caring sector. This paper analyses the accounts of employment and its value in biographic narrative interviews of 30 migrant women (half of them Russian speaking, half Kosovo Albanians) that were carried out in 2006. The value of employment for women of Kosovo Albanian origin and women of Russian origin will be compared by examining the role of waged employment in these women’s life stories and integration strategies. It appears that the low labour participation rate among immigrant women in Finland does not reflect their unwillingness to take up waged labour. Women brought up in the labour-oriented Soviet society as well as those coming as refugees from the kin-centred Balkan society value employment highly in their new lives in Finland. Interviewed immigrant women perceive that integration is very difficult without waged employment. The motivation for working or searching for work, however, varies: for Kosovo Albanian women, it is centrally related to strengthening their mothering responsibilities while for women of Russian origin, needs deriving from family roles combine with self-realizational goals.

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Presented in Session 44: Women and Economic Migration

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