Over the last few decades the role of gender in international migration has largely been ignored. This is despite the fact that gender plays a very significant role in the analysis of international migration. Migration theory has largely focused on the causes of international migration and their aftermath. ( Bernhard,Judith,Patricia et al,2006) Without a clear understanding of the role of gender in international migration it becomes difficult to explain the causes of women migration, why women are represented in certain labor flows and not others and so on.
It does not explain why women may be motivated to become international migrants, why they choose refugee or asylum status and why they are usually trafficked. Migration may produce entirely different outcomes for both men and women. Currently women constitute nearly half of all international migrations. (Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette). During the 1970s women migrated as wives and daughters but today they migrate alone constituting what is known as primary migrants rather than secondary migrants.
The major destination for women migrants in developing countries is the Gulf rich region and Western Asia whereas in developed countries they head to US, Western Europe and Australia. (Pessar Patricia,1999). The women mostly head off as domestic workers. Some countries such as Sri Lanka and Philippines encourage women to migrate as domestic workers in order to boost remittances back home. (United Nations Population Fund,2006) The development of service based economies in the post industrial nations favours the migration of women unlike in the industrial age where blue collar workers were in demand.
The work performed by immigrant women subsidizes the work that would have been performed by the middle class and wealthy women of developed countries thereby freeing them to pursue other activities in business and professional pursuits. They may also spend more time with their children in order to instill values in them. The migration of women has produced great inequalities between women while leaving the male dominance intact. Furthermore nowadays these women are separated from their children and this greatly disturbs the traditional family set-up.
Sometimes the mother may stay for up to fifteen years before re-uniting with her children. To fully understand the role of gender in international migration you have to understand fully the main types of migration such as temporary, permanent, illegal, labour and migration due to war or conflicts. During the 1970s women were perceived as passive in migration and migration only tended to talk about men and their families. However as more women began to work and as the feminist movement begun to pick up the role of gender became more significant.
There are three distinct stages where gender relations and roles affect international migration patterns. (Boyd Monica, Grieco Elizabeth, March 2003). The first stage is the pre-migration stage. In this stage there are many factors that exist that make it more or less possible for women to migrate. They include both system and macro factors such as the economy of the country, and individual factors such as gender specific stage in the life-cycle. Gender relations within the family affect the migration patterns because it is at the family where the male authority is most visible.
The family decides the role of the woman and assigns her duties which determine the relative motivation to migrate. It is the family that decides the distribution of resources and information that can encourage or discourage migration. The interaction of women’s roles, status, and age within a particular socio-cultural context results in a migratory probability which can affect the migratory probability of women to migrate. (Zionic Haria,2003). The culture of the sending country determines the likelihood that women in various positions will migrtate.
In this regard a woman’s position in the sending society not only influences her ability to independently decide to migrate and to access the resources needed to do so, but also the opportunity to migrate when she decides to do so. Certain macro characteristics of the country of origin can also influence gender specific migration. These characteristics always do interact with the gender relations and position of women in the sending society and affect decisions about who moves and who doesn’t.
These characteristics include the state of the country’s economy and the type of economic activity prevalent whether agrarian, industrial or service economy; the types of economies within the various communities, level of displacement caused by the economic changes and shifts in agricultural production and the conditions of work. Decisions made at the pre-migration stage are influenced by a variety of gender related factors. In certain circumstances men are more likely to leave while in others women are more likely to leave.
However the decision to leave is not the same thing as to be allowed to exit or enter a specific country. Through their policies, countries are major influencers in the international migration process. National policies of the countries of origin can influence migration through rules of exit that may affect men and women migrants differently . For instance some labor exporting countries have implemented conditions that protect women against exploitation and this prevents them from engaging in labor migration. In conclusion gender greatly affects both the extent and the pattern of international migration.
As more women move into the workforce especially in developing countries there will be continued increase in feminization of migration. This will produce great inequalities between women and families in both the developing and developed countries. Works cited Bernhard, Judith, Patricia Landoit and Luin Goldring. 2006. Transnational,Multi-Local Motherhood: Experiences of separation and Reunification among Latin American Families in Canada”. CERIS,Policy matters,No24,January 2006. Boyd Monica, Grieco Elizabeth (March 2003). Migration Policy Institute. Women and Migration: Incorporating Gender into International migration Theory.
5 June 2009 http://www. migration policy. com/migration policy. html Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. ’Overcoming Patriarchal Constraints: The reconstruction of Gender Relations Among Mexican Immigrant Women and Men”. Gender and Society,Vol. 6,No. 3, 393-415(1992) Pessar, Patricia. 1999. ”Engendering Migration Studies: The case Of New Immigrants in the United States”. American Behavioral Scientist 42; 577. Zionik, Haria. 2003. The Global Dimensions of Female Migration. 5 June 2009 . http://www. migrationinformation. org/Feature/display. cfm? ID=109. html
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