Published on People Move

Are migration motives and remittances behavior different for women?

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Migration is a strategy followed by women when they face poverty or when they widowed or divorced. In India, women mainly migrate because they get married. In other countries women migrate to get better job opportunities, for education purposes or for family reunification. For example in Lesotho, since divorced women or widowers do not count with the income of a male migrant wage-earner, they are the ones who have to support their families.

Case study evidence of migrants’ labor market performance in receiving countries shows that most immigrants from developing countries, regardless of their destination, suffer an earnings penalty and higher inactivity levels and unemployment rates than nationals. In Europe, unemployment rates for immigrants originating from developing countries are uniformly higher than those from more developed economies. This gap is more pronounced for women than men across all skill levels (Page and Plaza, 2006). The situation is not different for immigrants in South Africa. The majority of female workers from Lesotho work in low-paying jobs since they have an irregular migration status. However, they get more money compared to what they get in Lesotho for the same work  that they do in South Africa. The majority of women from Lesotho work as domestic workers, followed by agricultural jobs and in the informal sector (Crush, Dodson, Gay and Leduka, 2010).

Female labor market participation affects their capacity to send remittances. Since they earn less than men, they remit less. For example domestic workers in South Africa remit less to Lesotho male miners (Crush et all, 2010).  Several studies have also found that women send home more goods than money including food, clothes and household items.  VanWey 2004 found similar results for Thailand and Crush et all found the same pattern for immigrants from Lesotho and Swaziland in South Africa.

Although remitting behavior varies depending, among other things, upon age, education, occupation, employment, motive for remitting, gender, size of the household, access to credit, and years since migration, it seems that there is little difference in the remittances sending behavior between male and female. Both male and female remittances have a positive impact on poverty at the household level back home


Sonia Plaza

Senior Economist, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, World Bank

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