International Migration is a centuries old phenomenon, but, historically the role of women in migration has not been a dominant one. Women, in the olden days, migrated chiefly as dependents of male relatives who had moved abroad for better prospects. Because of their dependent status these women were not remittance senders, but in the last 3 decades that has changed. With women across the world getting better access to education and with improving skillsets, independent female migration has increased, both to developed and developing nations, thereby lessening the gender gap. Latest statistics peg the percentage of migrant women in the 247 million strong international migrant stock to be at a whopping 50%.
So what is it that has changed? For one, it is the economic status of women; from dependents they have moved on to become bread winners of their families, diligently sending remittances to those they have left behind. This change in the migration patterns has been observed since the 1960’s; as per the data collected by United Nations Population Division, during their population censuses, the number of female migrants grew faster than the number of male migrants between 1965 and 1990 in the most important receiving countries.
Today, in the Philippines, women make up more than 50% of the total OFW numbers. Similarly, in the Latin American and the Caribbean nations, the trend of female migration has been a long standing one; as of 2005 women constituted 50.3% of total migrations coming from this region. Reports suggest that by the year 2005 there were slightly more female than male immigrants in the world‘s regions, except for Africa and Asia.
In Asia too, things have been changing to show a similar trend. Between 2000 and 2003, 79% of the outgoing migrants from Indonesia were women. Similarly, in the year 2002, twice as many women as men migrated from Sri Lanka. But one of the most remarkable cases of rising female migration in Asia comes from Bangladesh. The country officially started recording the numbers of women migrants in 1991, when the percentage of women migrants from the total outgoing workforce was a meager 1.49%; as of 2013, this percentage stood at 13%. While in itself this percentage may seem low, when one considers the rate at which the numbers have been growing, the pool of female migrants from Bangladesh is set to rise year on year, and is something to watch out for.
Like most other aspects of their lives, women have a dual role to play in remittances as well, being both the sender and receiver of international money transfers. As the feminization of global migration continues, it will serve to make the role of women in global remittances an even more impactful one.