Francisco-Menchavez receives Fulbright Award to conduct research in the Philippines

Associate Professor of Sociology Valerie Francisco-Menchavez

Project will examine post-COVID 19 migrations among Filipino care workers

San Francisco State University Associate Professor of Sociology Valerie Francisco-Menchavez received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award for a project titled “Migrant Care Workers and Multinational Migrations in the COVID-19 Global Context,” which considers how multinational migration strategies might shift in response to the demand for care workers globally and the restrictions that arise from the pandemic. During the Spring 2022 semester, Francisco-Menchavez will examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on migration aspirations for Filipinos in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Her work will be based out of the University of San Carlos in Cebu.

The Fulbright project builds on Francisco-Menchavez’s previous research, including her award-winning 2018 book “The Labor of Care,” in which she explored how migration shapes the lives of Filipina migrants in the U.S. and their families in the Philippines. Her current research has focused on Filipino migrants working as caregivers in the Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My past research program is concerned about similar topics but has dealt with the matter after Filipinos have arrived to the U.S.,” Francisco-Menchavez said. “This study proposes to examine the various processes and institutions Filipinos interact with before they migrate, to consider how these factors shape their migratory journeys, especially within the conditions of a pandemic that is demanding their labor globally.”

While most migration research in the Philippines has focused on urban centers such as Metro-Manila, Francisco-Menchavez will conduct her research from Cebu City to explore the types of labor migration patterns that emerge from the Visayas, a region that is an emerging migration hub. She will study how mechanisms and processes of pre-migration decision-making and multinational migrations are made among Visayan families with overseas worker migration histories and in response to the global pandemic.

As she did in her earlier ethnographic study of Filipino transnational life, Francisco-Menchavez will use qualitative research methods including participant observation, interviews and what she calls “kuwentuhan,” a type of focus group that revolves around a Filipino cultural practice of exchanging important details through talk-story.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has reorganized public health, care work and health services,” Francisco-Menchavez said. “Filipino care workers have been lauded as global essential workers while statistics show an unprecedented rate in deaths because of their work on the frontlines. In the United States, one out of four Filipinos work in the health care industry as nurses, caregivers to the elderly, and personal attendants. The unprecedented global pandemic will undoubtedly call on more Filipino migrants in the care industry all over the world. And while Filipino care workers have been a historic, formidable migratory population, the aftermath of the pandemic will surely reorganize their lives, as well.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to forge lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, counter misunderstandings and help people and nations work together toward common goals.