Jenna Hennebry, Mexican-Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Migration
ICTs, Development and Migration:
A Case Study of Mexican-Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Migration
by Dr. J Hennebry, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Between 2003 and 2005, Dr. J. Hennebry (Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, WLU) carried out a research project on the use and development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) among migrant workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). This project was funded by Wilfrid Laurier University, the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada (AUCC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) .
This research project involved extensive qualitative fieldwork and interviews with Mexican seasonal migrants and their families, both in Canada and in Mexico, examining ICTs in relation to migration and development. “Migrant workers” have become an important labour resource in the global economy. Multilateral government agreements, trade liberalization, and advancements in communication and transportation networks have enabled flows of the world’s poor into managed international labour migration programs. This research documents how ICTs have facilitated this movement, how a “migration industry” comprised largely of ICT service providers has profited from this market, and how temporary migration systems have impacted families and communities in Mexico. With remittance dollars sent home from Canada, families and communities have invested in ICT infrastructure and services, built homes and clean water reservoirs, etc. These changes have impacted family cohesion and gender roles, social relations and culture.
Hennebry and Vanderwillik observed significant changes among migrant families, with women taking on new work as remittance receivers, managing family finances, working on family farms and in new businesses. Seasonal migration has had impacts on the division of labour in the family and on gender roles.
Mexico's incoming international telephone traffic more than doubled between 1998 and 2003, growing from just under 3 billion minutes to over 6 billion in 2003. Remittances to Mexico equal 10% the total value of exports, more than income from tourism. The areas with the largest remittances are those with highest participation in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.
Workers call their families weekly to organize their transnational family income, and to keep in touch, typically using telephone cards and payphones.