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This study sought an insightful understanding of the effects of social meritocratic capital—an inevitable phenomenon/mechanism whereby individuals receive social recognition, respect, and other benefits due to their monetary achievement—on Southeast Asian migrant workers’ behaviours and their ingrained perceptions through investigating their life stories and inner voices reflecting the factors inducing them to participate in the prostitution world. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was employed to scrutinise the qualitative data collected from a series of in-depth interviews with four Southeast Asian migrant women in Taiwan. This study led to the following conclusions: (1) These migrant workers moved overseas due to their pure and simple intention of pursuing better lives for themselves and their family; (2) The internal factors (family reputation and wellbeing) and external ones (unexpected events and a meritocratic society) simultaneously pulled and pushed them, eventually turning them out of their normal careers; (3) They were stuck in the very depths of an extravagant but vicious world by the shock, even attraction, of “big money” characterising a meritocratic capitalist order; and (4) Innocence and ‘purity’ get lost easily, even unconsciously, in the social context of meritocratic capitalism and wishful rationalisation of questionable behaviours, flouting convention and morality, with self-sacrifice and compensation, and self-rationalisation.
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