Women migrants now constitute almost half (49.6% in 2005) of all international migrants.
However, much of this attention has focused on migrant women who enter the lesser skilled sectors of the labour market, especially in work that is dangerous, dirty and low-paid. Academic research on, and media stories of, migrant women's employment usually focuses on sex work or domestic work. But this focus ignores the many other sectors of the labour market where women are also present, including the more skilled sectors.
In this policy brief we aim to address this gap by highlighting the presence of skilled
The third section shows how, contrary to this perception, women form an important part of skilled migratory streams. The fourth section looks at some of the factors influencing female skilled migration, particularly the gender discriminatory processes that shape migration policy and the issue of skills recognition in destination countries. The conclusion outlines some suggestions for further research and for policy intervention.
During the past decade, patterns of migration (countries of origin, types of migration, duration of residence) have become increasingly diversified. The geographical flows have increased from the global South
There has been growth in migration both amongst those with low skills and those with high skills. Another notable pattern in the last few years has been the global increase in the number of female migrants, who in 2005 numbered an estimated 94.5 million (or 49.6 per cent of) migrants. The share of women among migrants in Southern countries was about 38.9 million (51 per cent) in that same year, compared to 46.2 million (51 per cent) in the high-income countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and 8.7 million (40 per cent) in the high-income, non-OECD countries.
Migrants in the labour force (both male and female) may have entered their host country through a variety of routes, ranging from temporary and long-term labour migration to family-related migration (reunification, formation and as accompanying family members of labour migrants), student migration, and asylum and refugee programmes. In a number of European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark and Portugal, more than 40% of total inflows in 2005 were made up of people admitted explicitly for the purpose of work. For female migrants, family-related migration is the most significant mode of entry into many countries but many family migrants do, however, enter the labour market.
It is worth stating that although there are significant proportions of migrant women in the labour market, evidence suggests that they face many difficulties in accessing jobs.
|Female employment by sector and place of birth for|
Women aged 15-64, 2003-2004, data pooled over EU countries*
|Share of total employment of foreign-born women (%)||Over-represented||Share of total employment of native-born women (%)||Over-represented|
|Agriculture and fishing||1,1||No||3,3||No|
|Minig, manufacturing and energy||12,1||No||12,8||No|
|Wholesale and retail trade||12,6||-||15,6||Yes|
|Hotels and restaurants||8,1||Yes||4,4||Ja|
|Health and other community services||17,0||Yes||16,5||Ja|
|Administration and extraterritorial organizations (e.g. EU and UN offices)||4,7||No||7,5||-|
|* Columns do not sum to 100 because not all employed women indicate their sector of activity. Over-representation occurs when the share of foreign- or native-born women in one particular sector is more important than their share in total employment. Sectoral over-representation is supposed to be undetermined (Ind.) if the share of foreign-or native-born women in the employment divided by their share in total employment is higher than 0.9 and lower than 1.1.|
Sources: European community Labour Force Survey (data provided by Eurostat)
The employment of migrant women also shows some sectoral patterns. As the Table makes clear, there is a significant concentration of migrant women in some occupational sectors such as service sector work and especially within personal and social services. In all countries with the exception of Turkey and the Czech Republic, more than 40% of all employed migrant women are working in these sectors. Although these are sectors where native-born women also tend to be concentrated, there is often a significant overrepresentation of migrant women. This is particularly apparent in Turkey (+17% compared to the native-born), Greece (+16%), Spain (+13%), Mexico (+8%), Portugal (+8%) and Italy (+7%). This is to a large degree attributable to a particularly strong concentration in a number of specific sectors such as domestic work, hotels and restaurants. Unfortunately, the diversity of female migrants' labour market experiences is not accorded due attention in academic research, which, we argue below, has focused on domestic work and sex work.