Migration and the empowerment of women

In addition to financial benefits, migration provides countries of origin with opportunities to build their human, capital and social assets. Returned migrants usually bring back new skills during employment abroad through what is today recognized as beneficial transfer of know how and competencies called ‘brain gain’. A study on returning Pakistani migrant workers conducted in 1998 found that migrants who had worked abroad as mechanics, welders and machinery operators had learned how to use advanced tools, instruments and machinery and new facets on how to organize their work. Employers in the home country rated them much higher than workers without overseas employment experience (Azam 1988).

Migrants can also play an important role in their home country by strengthening political debate, enhancing the role of civil society, encouraging more formal education of non-migrants and emancipating women and minority groups in countries of origin (de Hass 2006).

The work of UN Women has shown that migration offers women a choice to work and become financially independent. It leads to a change in power relations within the family, especially when the woman migrant worker has been instrumental in lifting the family out of poverty. Women often tolerate abusive working conditions because of the significant contribution their remittances make to their families, especially for the education of children.

Migration and the resultant economic independence can contribute to the development of the individual workers as well as the community and society. However, the full potential of migration is not enjoyed by women nor are the benefits derived to the maximum effect by the country of origin and destination due to the governance issues discussed in sections above.