Friday essay: ‘I trained to be an engineer … now I am a pickle seller’. What does migration do to a wife?

Migrant women come to Australia with high hopes but their husbands’ careers often take precedence. Farjana Mahbuba spoke to Bangladeshi Muslim women, finding stories of isolation and under employment.

According to 2021 census data, 51,491 people in Australia were born in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Muslim women here have significantly higher educational attainment than the wider Australian female population. The data shows 19.71% of Bangladeshi Muslim women in Australia have a postgraduate degree, compared with 5.41% of women in general. Overall, 22.75% of Bangladeshi Muslim women have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 15.87% of women across the board.

The same census data shows the unemployment rate to be 5.31% amongst Bangladeshi Muslim women compared to 2.21% in the wider female population. Salma Bint Shafiq, in her research into Bangladeshi migrants in Australia, has found non-participation in the labour market is much more common for these women (30%) than it is for men (2%).

I see a pattern emerging. A pattern where a migrant woman’s financial misery starts at day one of her journey to Australia; the day she steps into an unknown world, where her only bridge to this world is her husband. A husband who himself is often extremely busy earning enough money to support his two families; the new family in Australia, and his own parents and siblings back home in Bangladesh.

Intentionally or not, the wife is left alone, isolated and uninformed. She gets lost. And the impact lasts for many years to come. Financially and otherwise, she gradually becomes totally dependent on her husband.

For some couples, it does not take long for the husband to turn his wife’s financial dependency into a tool to control her mobility. Spousal financial abuse thrives when one partner starts manipulating, deceiving or coercing to create or maintain the other partner’s dependency.

Source: Friday essay: ‘I trained to be an engineer … now I am a pickle seller’. What does migration do to a wife?

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