Gender and international migration

During the migration process, women migrant workers often are at a disadvantage due to gender-specific factors and have different experiences by virtue of gender stereotypes of the role of women and the division of labour between the two sexes.

This chapter aims to highlight this by mainly focusing on the specific concerns and issues of women migrant workers, especially those who are most at risk of being exploited, from the key countries of out-migration in the subregion, namely Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Issues related to migration and gender are different in other countries of the subregion and would require a separate detailed discussion. The chapter primarily concentrates on temporary labour migration from the subregion, which is dominated by migration to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).2 Specific vulnerabilities arise for women migrant workers from these countries due to the nature of the temporary labour migration regime and gender imbalances in countries of origin and destination.

The gender-based hierarchies established in countries of employment are important factors that influence the incorporation of migrants into the labour market. The gender‑based hierarchies that affect all women in general also handicap migrant women in particular, influencing job opportunities, work environment, and wages compared to their male counterparts (Boyd and Grieco 2003). Countries that recruit migrant workers on a temporary basis generally admit women as domestic workers, which include those specializing in childcare. Thus, many women migrants, despite their skill level or aspirations, are channeled into the domestic sector because of these pre-existing gender, cultural and legislative realities in many countries of employment.


1 Deepa Bharathi, Programme Manager, Asia Pacific Arab States regional Programme on Empowering Women Migrant Workers, UN Women East and South East Asia, Bangkok, Thailand and Smita Mitra, Programme Associate, UN Women South Asia, New Delhi, India

2 The member States of the GCC are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.