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Pulitzer Center Update May 12, 2014

This Week: The Nanny's Son

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Image by Alice Proujansky. United States, 2014.

Millions of women from poor countries come to work in America as caregivers or nannies. Who looks...

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Multiple Authors
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Blanca and her son Guido play in Corona, Queens. Image by Alice Proujansky. United States, 2014.


Millions of women from poor countries work as caregivers in America, part of a massive but largely invisible workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.3 million childcare workers were employed in the United States in 2012. However, given that 8.2 million children spend time with a daycare provider, these numbers swell if unreported care providers are included.

As Pulitzer Center grantee Alissa Quart notes in a feature story for The Nation, many of these foreign women are forced to make the difficult decision to leave their own children behind, to say nothing of spouses and aging parents. "University researchers studying Latina immigrants in Los Angeles estimated that 24 percent of housekeepers and 82 percent of live-in nannies have left kids behind. What happens when so many families—and children—are living so far apart?" Alissa writes.

Alissa and photographer Alice Proujansky tell the story of one such nanny who was recently reunited with her son after nearly a decade apart. Their work is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Pulitzer Center and author Barbara Ehrenreich's Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Alissa explains that many of these immigrant nannies hire even-lower-wage caretakers back home. The monetary value of women's labor declines as one follows the chain from Global North to Global South. The chain works by separating wage earners from their dependents.


This week we are pleased to announce that Ana P. Santos, a multimedia journalist from the Philippines, will be our 2014 Persephone Miel Fellow.

Ana is already at work on our Nanny project, preparing a series of articles and a video about the tens of thousands of Filipino women who leave their families to find work abroad. According to Ana, about 10 percent, or $18.6 billion of the Philippines GDP, comes from remittances sent home by migrant workers. Almost half of the migrant workers from the Philippines are women, filling vacancies in the service sector mostly as nannies and domestic helpers.

Ana says that most of them view migration as a temporary situation and necessary sacrifice to obtain the two things that would secure a future for their children: a home and an education. But for many of these women, this simple aspiration comes at a cost that cannot be translated into monetary terms.


Even in the wealthy countries of Asia job opportunities for women are scarce. In Japan, only 65 percent of women with college degrees have jobs while more than 70 percent of the country's low wage or part-time jobs are occupied by women.

Pulitzer Center grantee Shiho Fukada, in this video for GlobalPost and NBC News, looks at the growing phenomenon of hostessing—women paid to flirt with men at bars or clubs. "The job has become mainstream, and an increasingly popular career move for young Japanese women," according to Shiho. "Hostesses grace talk shows, star in television dramas, and have become models and entrepreneurs."

There are now about 70,000 hostess bars and clubs in Japan, and experts say the job's newfound popularity reflects a lack of professional opportunities for Japanese women.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor


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