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Author: Michelle Phillips 馬秀

Michelle Phillips 馬秀
Michelle is a 4th-year Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley, with a dissertation focused on the system of transnational migrant domestic labor. Raised in Mainland China from the time she was four years old, she is fluent in Mandarin and has learned Indonesian in order to speak to migrants here in Taiwan. Following this year of in-depth fieldwork, Michelle hopes to use her research findings to propose changes in Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines regarding better protections for migrant workers and their employers.

When Home and Economics Collide: The Opaque Market of Foreign Domestic Work in Taiwan

     Although I have lived most of my life in China, my Fulbright scholarship was the first time I had been to Taiwan. I had heard much about the beautiful island, and other members of my family had visited and told me stories, but I’d never had the chance to go. And as was to be expected, Taiwan was a beautiful place, with lush hills, beautiful beaches, hot springs, and tons of great hiking trails. Even if it rained constantly in Taipei, the people were very friendly and the city was clean, convenient and quite safe, and I was able to explore many parts of the island in my time there. However, for my Fulbright fellowship, I was not there to enjoy the beauty of Taiwan – quite the contrary, since my research tasked me with looking at the side of life here that no one usually talks about: the invisible labor of migrant workers (often called the “maid trade”), the underside of the Taiwanese economy necessitated by flaws in the nation and region’s infrastructure and social systems. Specifically, I was looking at the system and mechanisms that allowed the foreign migrant domestic worker market to flourish in Taiwan,

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