The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has lamented that more than 105 women migrants, nearly half the estimated total number of migrants, are increasingly reported involved in labour migration as main income earners, yet they remain more affected than their male counterparts, by the risks arising from mobility.
On that basis, it was argued that migration policies must offer equal opportunities to migrate to both women and men to reduce women’s vulnerability during migration and to optimize the positive development impact of migration in communities of origin.
Speaking from the headquarters of the IOM in Geneva, Deputy Director General ,Ambassador Laura Thompson, expressed concern that although labour migration policies in most countries of destination may appear gender-neutral, they continue to be biased and based on a model that focuses on skilled, traditionally male-dominated jobs.
Thompson observed such male dominated jobs were the ones that are mostly covered by permanent labour schemes.
While on the other hand, work performed by women migrants, such as care and domestic services, although essential to the economies of destination countries, is frequently under-valued and poorly integrated in admission policies.
“We advocate for more gender-sensitive labour migration policies, acknowledgment that men and women have different needs and opportunities, before, during and after migration. More opportunities to migrate legally would prevent a lot of women from getting trapped in irregular, exploitative and abusive situations, including human trafficking,” said Thompson.
Botswana currently has no deliberate policy addressing the influx of migrant populations, including those compelled by the special circumstances in their countries such as Zimbabweans.
“ The recent announcement in parliament by Minister of Defense , Security and Justice, Ramadeluka Seretse, that more than P5million was in used in just last year alone to transporting back Zimbabwean migrants typifies the folly of lacking the relevant legal framework for capitalizing on migration, rather than lose out,” commented one Human Rights activist who preferred anonymity.
The lack of legal avenues for migration often forces women to resort to smugglers and other intermediaries, which greatly increases the risk of violence and abuse en route to their destination.
In the receiving countries, stereotypes and discrimination also often lead women to work in unregulated or poorly regulated sectors exposing them to abuses including limited freedom of movement, withholding of wages and documents, low pay, physical violence and sexual abuse.
Sending and destination countries cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of these migrant women, the need for whose labour is actually increasing. Moreover, these women are meeting a growing demand for care and support services in destination countries, which demand has been largely unaffected by the global economic downturn.
Countries have therefore, been urged to promote and sustain the opening of legal migration channels with provision of decent employment opportunities and access to benefits, since it is the only way migration can truly benefit both sending and receiving countries, as well as the migrants, their families and their communities.
IOM’s publication, “Gender and Labour Migration in Asia” highlights how families back home can benefit from women’s migration.
It states how Filipina domestic workers holding regular migration status in Italy , through their remittances, are able to improve the housing, health and the socio-economic status of their families, back home.
Research suggests that female migrants tend to send a much higher proportion of their income, which is generally lower than that of men. They also usually send money more regularly and for longer periods of time, mostly to other women left in charge of their children.
Thus, regular migration status would help reduce the social cost of women’s migration by allowing them to return to visit their families more often, access decent work, earn more and send more money home to improve their families’ future.
“Our priority should be to ensure that their migration experience is positive and a force for development. Let us all work towards achieving this goal…” concluded Thompson.