Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Women's Issues: World Bank says female migration increases and spurs development

Women make up almost half the migrant population in the world and their numbers are increasing, according to a new World Bank report released today.

"The fact that women now account for almost half the total migrant population is having enormous effects on development," says Andrew Morrison, lead economist at the World Bank's Gender Group. "Women are sending lots of money to their families back home, and evidence from rural Mexico shows that their migration leads to positive economic effects for the homes they leave behind."

Between 1960 and 2005, the percentage of international migrants who are women increased by almost 3 percentage points from 46.7 percent to 49.6 percent, to a total number of approximately 95 million women, according to the new World Bank volume, The International Migration of Women, edited by economists Andrew R. Morrison, Maurice Schiff, and Mirja Sjöblom.

The number of female migrants is larger than that of male migrants in the former Soviet Union (58 percent and rising), is about equal and rising in Europe, Oceania, and Latin America and the Caribbean, is equal and steady in North America, and is smaller in Africa (47 percent and rising) and Asia (43 percent and falling).

"The share of women migrating for employment rather than family reasons has increased over time, though their performance in host countries' labor markets varies significantly according to country of origin," Maurice Schiff, World Bank lead economist at the Development Research Group.

Women migrants working in the U.S. who hail from the Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa have higher labor force participation than those from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Among women migrants educated in their home countries, those from Ireland, Australia and the UK make the most money. Among developing countries, women from South Africa, Jamaica and India have the highest salaries while those from Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Cuba are the least successful, highlighting the importance of language skills for labor market performance. The study also shows that U.S.-educated women migrants earn more than those educated at home.

The International Migration of Women also finds that increased border expenditures in the United States significantly deter migration by Mexican women, but not by Mexican men. This is likely because the cost of illegal migration is greater for women than for men because women are more vulnerable to abuse while migrating.

"One of the most important messages of this book is that migration studies can no longer ignore women migrants," says Mirja Sjöblom, co-editor of the volume. "This is a fascinating research area because we are still missing important pieces of the puzzle. For example, we need to know more about the differential impact of male and female migration on family cohesion and children's welfare, as well as why certain households prefer female rather than male migration."

In order to increase the positive effects of women migration on development, the study recommends:

* Developing mechanisms to increase women's ability to influence the allocation of household expenditure. This is especially important for migrant women sending remittances, since they are likely to want to spend more on children's education;

* Expanding temporary migration opportunities for women through Mode IV [1], guest worker and other mechanisms; and

* Allocating significant resources to collecting and analyzing new sex-disaggregated migration statistics, which will inform next-generation migration policy.

Source: World Bank Press Release No:2008/120/PREM