Labour migration into the Gulf countries has increased in the last three to four decades, though scholarly analyses have focussed primarily on men. In recent years, the inflow of young women from South Asian countries is increasing due to opportunities in the labour market. This paper explores the migration experiences of young women from South Asia in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), working in the service sector (beauty parlours, grocery stores and cleaning – as own-account worker through a placement agency). The main objective is to provide a qualitative analysis of the implications of the Kafala as a system of migration management on the domain of work and social life situations of these young women. Using the concept of intersectionality, the paper shows how the interplay between gender, ethnicity and generation has shaped the social positioning of these women and the implications this has for negotiating and making sense of their identities (as migrants, women, and member of an ethnic community). Situated in the broader systemic structures that govern the labour market and their social lives, their agency (ability to make choices) is found to be facilitated and/or constrained by social networks that play an important role helping them to cope with Kafala as a migrant labour management system that affects multi-layered power relations between the individual migrant and 1) the state of the host country; 2) the employers; 3) the placement agency; 4) actors in neighbourhoods where they live.

Additional Metadata
Keywords agency, identity, gender, Kafala, migration, United Arab Emirates, young women
Thesis Advisor Truong, Thanh-Dam
Persistent URL
Series Children and Youth Studies (CYS)
Saxena, S. (2012, December 14). Young Migrant Women from South Asia in the UAE : Negotiating Identities under the Kafala System. Children and Youth Studies (CYS). Retrieved from