The National Network of Mongolian Women Organization, developed a report known as “Country Gender Assessment -2008” together with Asia Foundation. The report recommended that the government’s labor export policies needs to take into account the needs of families and all people. Currently, policies and government agreements fail to consider the human reality. As a result, migrants are forgotten individuals and no arrangements are made to assist the families in migrating together reuniting regularly. The ignorance of some basic human rights by the government’s labor export policy is coupled with a clear gender inequality. A high percentage of Mongolians migrants are married, especially those in South Korea where 53.5% of men and 55% of women in are married. This makes gender roles inextricably involved in migration and international work.
The report consisted of articles regarding Population, Poverty, Economic Development and Cultural Issues. At the current time, The UB post has reported only one issue about the international migration of Mongolian nationals. The report says, “Since this study, several communities seem to have experienced a mass exodus of men, mostly to work as blue-collar workers in Korea, leaving behind de facto single mothers and half-orphans and young women with no available marriage partners. Even when couples migrate together, problems do not get easily solved.
There are a growing number of children who are de facto orphans, living in the care of their relatives while both parents are working abroad. These children are deprived of adequate family care and parental affection and protection and are more frequently subjected to child abuse”. A very clear gendered dimension is the migration of Mongolian women by way of marrying foreigners. In many instances, these cases border on human trafficking, bonded labor, and a slavery-like situation.
Mongolians currently residing abroad do so for many different reasons, making detailed and accurate analysis difficult. Informal sources state there are about 300,000 Mongolians abroad, which is more than twice the number estimated by the Consular Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latter estimates there are at least 120 thousand Mongolians abroad, with the largest number of Mongolians residing in South Korea (35,000), USA (22,000), the Czech Republic (11,000), UK (9,000), and Kazakhstan (9,000)
In South Korea, there were large numbers of women in the 25-29 and 30-34 age groups (about 50% of women) and a large number of 30-34 year-old men (about 27% of men). Men of 20-29 accounted for about 40% in South Korea. Mongolian Women outnumbered men in 25-29 and 35-39 age-groups whereas men outnumbered women in all other age groups. In the Czech Republic and USA, the gender composition looked more imbalanced compared to South Korea. Women of 25-29 made up the largest group in the Czech Republic whereas the number of 25-29 year-old men was double the number of women in the same age group, and made up by far the largest group of Mongolians in the USA.
The gender balance of Mongolians in South Korea is likely to have changed significantly since the signing of the agreement on labor export to South Korea in 2004. Within a few months after the signing of the agreement, 7,000 people had registered with the Labor Brokering Bureau under the Ministry of Social Security and Labor. High-level education and skills have not, however, empowered Mongolian migrant workers.
An overwhelming majority of Mongolian migrants do not have appropriate legal status (visas had expired for 68.6% of respondents in the USA and 44.3% of the respondents in South Korea) and job permits (only 32.6% of the respondents living in South Korea and 2.9% of the respondents living in the USA had visas that permit them to work). In addition, large numbers of migrants do not speak the language of the host country (39.7% of Mongolians in South Korea, 48% of migrants in the USA and 54.5% of the migrants in the Czech Republic stated language as a serious problem). One can suppose cultural differences and lack of social networks form further barriers to succeeding abroad.
Given the formidable barriers, decent employment opportunities are extremely limited, and finding a job, especially in the USA, is a major challenge. Therefore, an overwhelming majority (three thirds) of Mongolians in South Korea and the USA work outside their professional training. Mongolians mostly perform the 3D (difficult, dangerous and dirty) jobs that nationals of destination countries are unwilling to perform. The majority of Mongolians in South Korea and the Czech Republic work in the industrial sector (59.3% and 73.5% respectively) and the majority of Mongolians in the USA work in the service
They mostly work as factory assembly workers, construction workers, domestic workers, nurses for sick or old people, seamstresses, waiters and cleaners. Mongolian Women face double discrimination as their jobs are under-valued and under-paid. Working conditions are hard, especially in South Korea where 40.6% of the respondents worked 10-12 hours a day, 33.5% worked 8-10 hours, 17.1% worked 12 and more hours a day and 61.2% worked 40 or more hours a week. In the Czech Republic, 61.1% worked 8-10 hours a day but 76.2% worked 40 or more hours per week. In the USA, 52.8% worked 8-10 hours per day, 18% 12 or more hours a day and 30.3% worked 40 or more hours per week.
The majority of Mongolians in South Korea work in extremely noisy environments, without social protection and proper safety standards. Often, they are unable to receive their salaries on scheduled time. In the USA, employers generally allow Mongolians to take 10-15 minute breaks during the working hours. However, in South Korea and the Czech Republic, the majority of the respondents stated that breaks are rare.
The risk of becoming sick or injured in an occupational accident is high. 8.9% of men and 6.6% of women working in South Korea, 1.5% of women in the Czech Republic, 1.5% of men and 5.7% of women in the USA reported their health had worsened during migration. The study provides an example of an undocumented woman who gave birth in the Czech Republic.
During that time, she had no documents and health insurance, and had to borrow another Mongolian woman’s documents. The woman and her husband had to pay a high price for ‘borrowing’ the documents, and the child was born under the other woman’s name. However, they will most likely face legal problems later when the child needs to go to school or when the family attempts to go abroad. With heightened awareness of trafficking in children, families such as this may face risks of not only becoming separated from their children but also being accused of human trafficking. Furthermore, this particular couple married while abroad and their marriage is not officially registered. This has further implications for child support payments should the couple divorce.
Traditionally, the woman takes care of the children following a divorce or a separation. It is plausible that migrant women are more burdened by childcare expenses compared to men, in addition to being paid about US$550 less per month compared to migrant men. The birth of children abroad also poses the issue of allowing dual citizenship for Mongolian nationals.
The majority of migrant Mongolians work under exploitative conditions. Despite working long hours in difficult, dirty and dangerous working conditions, Mongolians are paid 1.4-1.6 times less salary than citizens of the destination countries.
Even when Mongolians have appropriate legal status and are working in their professional fields as is mostly the case for Mongolians in the Czech Republic (84% have work permits and 50% work in their professionals fields), they are not protected from hazardous working conditions and labor exploitation. Exploitation is increased when the migrants are women (see also the section on income disparities). The study also noted that the Labor Brokering Bureau under the Ministry of Social Security and Welfare, founded in 2004, had already sent 80 women as domestic workers to Taiwan. Since then, it is likely this bureau had sent more women abroad as domestic workers.
It is internationally recognized among women’s rights and human rights activists that foreign domestic workers are the most vulnerable group of migrants. They are paid the least and have the worst living and working conditions largely due to traditional gender stereotyping, where domestic work is not recognize as work. Hence, further investigation is needed to elucidate the situation of Mongolian women migrants, especially those working as domestic workers.
There are a number of serious social issues that arise in migrant communities due to the high percentage of singles, and married men and women whose partners and families were left behind in the home country. Firstly, there is an indication of prevalence of unsafe sexual practices as 38.3% of the respondents stated they know of friends and acquaintances that have sex with multiple partners and have casual sex (42% of the respondents working in South Korea). Secondly, tobacco and alcohol consumption is much higher among migrants than the general Mongolian population. 52% smoke on a daily basis and 13.7% drink alcohol on a daily basis (for resident Mongolian population, regular smokers account for 24.2% and regular drinkers for 0.7%).
THE UB POST