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This paper examines why young women in one rural region of Ethiopia make the decision to migrate as domestic workers to the Middle East. Based on survey data and in-depth interviews, it examines the forces shaping aspirations and capabilities to migrate. In particular, the paper shows this migration can be reasonable and capabilities-enhancing for young women, while at the same time, a response to a critical lack of capabilities in other domains of their lives. The paper highlights why migration aspirations arise at a particular moment in the life-course, as adolescents transition into adulthood, and how migration aspirations relate to a broader set of capabilities young women have (or lack) to realize the lives they value (Sen 1999). These insights challenge the dominant narrative of trafficking, deception and victimization around this type of migration, while highlighting the usefulness of the aspiration-capability framework to analyze precarious forms of migration.



Working paper

Publication Date





1 - 25


migration, aspirations, capability, Ethiopia, Middle East