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Timeline 1970s.

Motif series "Migration history in images"

Invisible Caretakers – labor migration of women in Germany

Labor migration is not a male phenomenon. In 1973, for example, women comprised around 30 % of all foreign employees on the German labor market. Many women came to Germany to financially support their families. Another reason was the possibility to redefine their traditional (female) role in a new environment. In addition, women were looking for adventures and new experiences.

Transformation of the labor market and the role of women

Female migrant workers were already part of Germany’s labor market in the 1950s – this made them pioneers in the coordination of work, family and the household. In the 1950s and 60s, the Federal Republic of Germany was still dominated by patriarchal ideas which did not see women outside their traditional mother-/housekeeper role favorably. The beginning of the 1970s was a turning point as women increasingly gained access to the labor market, partly due to the female emancipation movement, but also because of a growing demand in labor that could no longer be met by the male population only.

Photo: Guenay Ulutuncok/DOMiD-Archive, Cologne

View of a back yard with clotheslines. From a series on Weidengasse and Eigelstein in Cologne. Photo: Guenay Ulutuncok / DOMiD Archive, Cologne

Moroccan women are waving goodbye at the airport in Casablanca before their departure to Germany. Casablanca, 1971. Photo: Hans-Joachim Weber/DOMiD-Archive, Cologne

Moroccan migrant workers are waving goodbye at the airport in Casablanca before their departure to Germany. Casablanca, 1971. Photo: Hans-Joachim Weber/DOMiD-Archive, Cologne

Health, Nursing, Industry: Female migrant workers in different sectors

In both East and West-Germany, many female migrants worked in the industrial sector. They were specifically recruited for low-wage jobs, for example precision mechanical work in the field of electrical engineering. Since the 1950s, another crucial sector of female labor migration was nursing- and healthcare. Similiarly to today, this sector was understaffed - in order to keep the German health sector running, people from other countries were recruited.

Korean nurses : between admiration, overqualification and exlusion

Between the late 1950s and the late 1970s, 11.000 Korean nurses came to the Federal Republic of Germany, along with women from the Philippines and India recruited for the same sector. Contemporary media reported very favorably about the Korean healthworkers, but their portrayal was also characterized by racist stereotypes and exoticism. In their daily work life, Korean women also had to face prejudices and discrimination.

Unlike in Korea, there was no differenciation between auxiliary nurses and the higher-educated nurses in Germany. The Korean nurses thus stood out as the better qualified colleagues and were especially popular with patients and doctors. However, the Korean nurses were now confronted with tasks that had never been part of their work in their home country, like cleaning patients, which caused frustration. The higher qualification of Korean nurses also sparked jealousy and competitiveness among their German colleagues – which often led to the exclusion of the Korean nurses on the job.

Almost 30% of all Korean women who came to Germany as nurses stayed here. Of the remaining 70%, 30% went to North America to seek better job opportunities. The rest went back to South Korea. Some of the returnees co-founded and subsequently settled in a so-called „German Village“ on the island of Namhaedo.

This and all other motifs from our series "Migration history in pictures" are available as postcards from us at the DOMiD office. You are welcome to pick them up or order them at: presse@domid.org. We would be happy to send you a set free of charge. In our anniversary year 2020 (30 years of DOMiD), a total of twelve motifs with stories from our collection will be created. DOMiD has endeavored to find and contact all rights holders regarding the motifs. If this is not successful in one case, we ask potential rights holders to contact us.

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