Gender and Migration
200 million people around the world live outside their country of origin and more people are moving within borders. Gender roles, relations and inequalities affect who migrates, how, why, and where they end up. This Gender Update highlights some of the issues and suggests key resources for further reading.
It is estimated that one billion of the world’s seven billion people are migrants (UNDP 2009). Migration journeys take place within countries, regions and internationally.
In 2015, the number of international migrants – people living in a country other than where they were born – was 244 million (UNDESA 2015). Globally, women make up just under half of international migrants. At the end of 2014, 38 million people were displaced within their own countries due to conflict and violence (Bilak et al 2015). During the same period, 19.3 million people worldwide were internally displaced as a result of geophysical and climate and weather related disasters (Yonetani 2015).
Decisions to migrate may be forced, in situations of conflict and disaster, or they may involve different degrees of choice and agency, and combinations of motivation and coercion. They are always, however, made in response to a complex mixture of social, economic and political pressures, incentives and norms (Jolly and Reeves 2005). Characteristics such as gender and age (along with others such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, class and disability) play a strong role in influencing whether particular groups of people migrate, or stay where they are.
Migration patterns are highly gendered. In the past it was often assumed that men usually migrated for employment or education, while women moved for marriage or family reunification. Increasingly, the picture has become much more diverse, for both women and men, with more women now migrating for education or employment purposes. Conflict and climate change has also influenced the gender specificity of migration patterns, as well as unequal and discriminatory social norms and institutions which often play a key role in shaping female south-south migration decisions.
Just as there are many different reasons why people migrate, there are also diverse experiences of migration and displacement, influenced by a range of social, economic and political factors.
Migration can lead to a greater degree of economic and/or social autonomy for women, and the opportunity to challenge traditional or restrictive gender roles. Through migration, both men and women may develop skills or earn higher wages, some of which they can send back to their country of origin as remittances.
However, migration can also entrench restrictive gender stereotypes of women's dependency and lack of decision-making power. Gender affects how people are able to contribute to and benefit from their destination community - and how, therefore, they are able to ultimately play a part in achieving basic goals of both social and economic development.
Coming soon: A new BRIDGE extended briefing on gender, age and migration. Watch this space!
Image from UN Photo. ID 443285 24/06/2010
The following is a selection of key resources related to the topics of Gender and Migration, which have recently been added to the BRIDGE global resources database.
You can search for more resources on the BRIDGE website.
A new blog series has been launched by the EMERGE project (Engendering Men: Evidence on Routes to Gender Equality) which focuses on engaging men and boys in gender equality initiatives. The blogs, written by EMERGE partners and featuring good practice examples of work with men and boys for gender equality, will be published regularly in the run up to the sixtieth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2016.