Chapter 17: Migrant women workers in Europe: forms of irregularity and conditions of vulnerability
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Migrant women workers employed in what are seen as ‘low-skilled’ labour sectors are disadvantaged by policies privileging ‘skilled’ migrations, and by racialized and gendered representations that tend to discriminate domestic, sex and agricultural work in particular. These three ‘dirty, dangerous and demanding’ sectors in which migrant women workers in Europe, especially the undocumented, are most likely to work, remain invisible and unregulated - and in the case of sex work even criminalized. Moreover, women’s family responsibilities often make them more exposed to exploitation and sexual abuse, as the pressure deriving from such responsibilities pushes them to ‘accept’ exploitative situations. While mainstream readings of ‘modern slavery’ and ‘trafficking’ represent certain groups of women as inherently vulnerable, and their exploitation as inherent to certain kinds of work, we illustrate how migrant women workers’ vulnerability to exploitation is actually produced by a number of contextual factors, in particular by conditions of irregularity both in migration status and in working conditions.

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