Women migrants’ remittances
In 2005, remittances represented about US$232 billion, of which developing countries received US$167 billion according to the World Bank. However, this amount only includes money transferred through formal channels. Thus, remittances are a lot larger than official development aid. Furthermore, they sometimes constitute an important part of a country’s GDP. In Moldova, Lesotho or Haiti, they represent about 25% of the national GDP.
However, the gender dimension of these remittances has barely been studied yet. Women used to represent a small part of the influx of migrants, but they now represent half of them, about 49.6% according to a United Nations-INSTRAW study.
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The specificity of women migrants’ remittances
The total amount of money women send may seem lower than the total amount of money sent by men, but we have to take into consideration that women receive less pay for equal work on average. Furthermore, women tend to occupy low-paid jobs, being on average less able to send greater amount of money. Nevertheless, data shows that women send a higher proportion of their earnings, regularly and consistently.
Beneficiaries of remittances
A study by UN-INSTRAW in the Dominican Republic shows that 90% of women migrants’ remittances go to other women. Therefore, remittances allow the empowerment of these women. Parallel to this, the women migrants, through sending remittances gain autonomy and negotiating power within their household.
How remittances are used in the receiving country
Consumption or productive investment?
On the contrary, remittances are barely used for “productive investment”, that is starting a business, opening a shop, etc. Remittances are mainly used for human and physical capital improvement that is education and health. This can also be seen as a long-term investment. Furthermore, they tend to favor girls as they are the ones lacking from education and suffering first from poor health. Also, women who migrate and send remittances back home tend to favor girls’ empowerment and education.
Economic or social remittances?
Some scholars make the difference between economic and social remittances, the latter being ideas, skills, knowledge, etc. For instance, we can consider that women who send money back home transmit another idea of what being a woman means. Also, some women may have a stronger impact on the situation in their home country when they are abroad. For example, some Afghan expatriate women had a strong role in convincing their counterparts remained in Afghanistan to participate in the creation of the new constitution. Furthermore, women migrants can have an impact on child health and mortality when these migrants receive education abroad.
Individual or collective remittances?
Collective remittances are sent through a group of people, mainly through the Diaspora. It has been shown that these remittances rarely benefit women, except for a few exceptions. Among them, we can cite the Netherlands Filipino Association Overseas which uses the remittances received to support women through microcredit and the creation of small firms in the Philippines.
This association is an example of how women take control of their remittances. Currently, one problem is that women lack power over their money. To counter that, more and more migrant women organize themselves into groups in order to manage what and how to send the remittances and who they will benefit.
- “Gender, migration, remittances and development” by UN-INSTRAW, November 2006
- UNFPA State of World Population 2006
- Highlighting Importance of Women Migrants’ Remittances”, Statement by Ms. Purnima Mane, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme), at Expert Meeting on Maximizing the Development Impact of Remittances, in Geneva, February 14, 2011.
- Trang Nguyen, Ririn Purnamasari, “Impacts of International Migration and Remittances on Child Outcomes and Labor Supply in Indonesia. How does Gender Matter?”, Policy research working paper 5591, The World Bank, March 2011.
- “Integrating migration and remittances into LDC national and regional development planning, including through a gender perspective”, an event organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) in May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.