Migrating as a Woman

Migrating to a new country is always a very difficult challenge – you need to find work and start a whole new life there. Between the years 2018-2020, 383,075 people migrated to Europe, but only 20 per cent of those total arrivals were women. Women can face different challenges than men, they have many unique additional obstacles to face such as personal safety and family planning aspects such as pregnancy or having young dependent children. Let’s take a look at what it’s like to migrate as a woman and how it’s a different experience from that of men..

Why do people migrate? 

It’s interesting to look into what drives men to migrate versus what drives women. Throughout history, women and men have migrated for different reasons based on their traditions and social values. Both genders are affected by these stereotypes, which determine their migration behaviour. Men tend to migrate based on labour positions or skilled profession shortages in the destination country. At the same time, it’s common that women migrate to more domestic work and care giving sectors than men.  

Furthermore, women migrate primarily to join their husbands to unite the family and start a new life together, while men migrate for work since they are responsible for their families. Lately, it has become more common for many women, including household heads, to emigrate on their own or as individuals. Increasingly, this trend is creating opportunities for women to become financially independent, empowering themselves and their families at home.

Different genders, different challenges 

There are, of course, challenges that both men and women jointly share in migration, such as language difficulties, social aspects, the distance from their families and trying to find their way in a new country and culture. Women, however, do experience different unique challenges such as the risk to their personal safety. According to a 2016 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, women and girls account for 71 per cent of all human trafficking victims. In addition, women that work in domestic “invisible sectors” such as housekeepers, cleaners and nannies can face high levels of exploitation and abuse. 

It’s often harder for women to find jobs that suit their qualifications, especially after joining their partner as a “dependent spouse.”. Women may face additional challenges when they move to a new country because of their different entry status to their spouses, which may prevent them from accessing health care, education, or language training. Women who are considered “dependents,” may have their rights based on the migration status of their husband, which can keep them in an abusive relationship if it exists. 

For women who come alone for employment, it’s harder for them to find jobs that suit their exact qualifications, in comparison to men. Women also face the discrimination in the workplace based on their family status if they have kids to care for or are pregnant. And, in general, experience the pay wage gap.. 

Gender remittance behavior 

Women and men have different financial behaviours, especially when it comes to remittances. According to the migrant financial platform, Rewire, women account for 60% of transfer orders compared to men who account for 40%. Interestingly, Rewire’s actual customer base includes 60% men and 40% women. Women tend to send smaller amounts of funds to multiple members of the family, while men send fewer orders to less recipients but slightly larger amounts. 

Rewire also reported that men were less eager to purchase its latest family coverage plans than women; 25% as opposed to 70% bought by female consumers. While men absolutely care for their families back home, this specific behaviour demonstrates that women have a greater anxiety about their family’s health.

Migration is hard on everyone, but women experience it differently to men, with the many challenges they face along the way. The increasing popularity of migration independent of their spouses allows women to feel empowered socially and financially as well as gain respect from their communities and families back home. According to the World Bank and the International Labour Organization, with more women choosing to migrate, a ten per cent increase in the share of remittances will lead to about a 2 per cent decline in the depth and/or severity of poverty in the developing world., Moreover, one of Rewire’s female customers states that “If the purpose of migration is to support the family, it doesn’t matter if its a man or woman, those who have the ability to work for the family or children’s future is more important.”