Who benefits from this xenophobia: the ruling class or the working class?
South Africa has not been the only place that has witnessed xenophobia, in Europe too xenophobia has been growing. An important question needs to be asked in this context and that is who benefits from this xenophobia: the ruling class or the working class?
Xenophobia and the far right
For many years, far-right and populist parties that are anti-immigrant have been gaining ground across Europe. A case in point is that during the recent elections in Britain, the populist anti-immigrant party, the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), received 3.2 million votes. Many such parties attempt to gain support, including in working class areas, by claiming that ills, such as high unemployment and the rolling back of welfare, are caused by immigrants.
This rise in far right parties has also been accompanied by growing xenophobic attacks on immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe. In Germany, for example, violent attacks on immigrants rose by 22% in 2014.
It is not just the far right
The growth of far-right parties and attacks on immigrants, as horrifying as they are, are only symptoms of much larger problems. The reality is that European states, and the ruling classes that control them, have implemented policies that have led to, and are, xenophobic. They have, therefore, created a xenophobic climate in Europe.
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Xenophobia and the feminisation of migrant work
While only a few of those killed in South Africa’s recent spates of xenophobia attacks are migrant women, this group increasingly make up the bulk of secondary long-term victims. The gender-neutral lenses through which xenophobia had largely been reported may not be appropriate if cognisance is taken of the fact that at least half of all migrants arriving in South Africa are now women, often accompanied by children: the most vulnerable among the most marginalised.
Feminisation of migrancy
The “feminisation of migrancy” is a global trend that has seen a steady growth of women from poor countries being forced into global chains of care work. Percentage-wise their numbers now outrank those of men seeking economic opportunities outside their countries. In some African countries, women make up over 70% of migrant work-seekers – which could also be seen as part of a rising trend in which women are the main breadwinners of families.
Single female-headed households are becoming the norm in Africa, but women’s lower status mean they find it much harder to resettle. Many work double shifts in order to keep just above the bread line. The reality is that about 80% of migrants end up in other “developing” countries, which are ill-equipped to receive them. Wherever they land, they face insecure low-wage jobs, social exclusion and more overt forms of targeted racial and gendered violence and misogyny.
Read more: Xenophobia and the feminisation of migrant work