Published on People Move

Unrealized Potential: Women Working Abroad

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(In observance of the International Migrants Day)

Gender discrimination, combined with migrant status, can make access to appropriate employment harder for female migrants. Employment tends to be segregated and migrant women are often pushed into low-skilled and traditionally female occupations, such as domestic work or garment factory work. Even when women with secondary or higher education migrate, women struggle to find jobs appropriate for their qualifications. “The OECD indicates that much of the growth in the employment rates of migrant women occurs in low-skilled occupations and that qualified migrant women face much larger gaps in employment and occupational attainment than their counterparts born in their country of residence.”
A recent Gallup study surveyed 19,000 adults in former Soviet republics. The results indicate that the majority of men and women migrants improve their economic situation. However, in general migrants are less likely to work in their main profession abroad, and women migrants even less so. Female migrants reported fewer benefits than males in several respects, including improving their professional qualifications and job prospects back at home, where the gender gap is double digits.

Benefits From Migration Differ for Men and Women
Asked only of those who have gone outside of the country for temporary work in the past 10 years. Based on surveys in nine former Soviet Union countries between 2010 and 2012.

Source: Esipova and Pugliese, 2012. “Labor Migration Doesn’t Always Pay Off for FSU Migrants.” Gallup.

When women, including migrant women, are not able to achieve their full potential, it impacts their families and the economy. Women remit at a higher rate than men and often remit a higher percentage of their income to their families in their home countries. The 2007 World Bank publication The International Migration of Women reported that in the United States female migrants remit significantly more than male migrants. Enabling educated migrants to utilize their skills and professions can increase their incomes and ultimately their remittances. In general, high-skilled migrants are as likely to send remittances as low-skilled migrants and remit larger amounts. Organizations like Upwardly Global aim to better match high-skilled migrants to appropriate employers. Still, the gaps persist and more can be done.

Today, on International Migrants Day, we highlight the achievements and contributions of migrants. However, we must recognize that the unrealized potential is large, not least for female migrants.


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