A regional perspective on migration from South and South‑West Asia

A distinctive feature of the current international migration scenario is that almost half the population movement consists of women, a sharp contrast to the relatively lower proportion of women migrants in nineteenth century migration. In this regard, however, it should be noted that the migration of women from South Asia has been lower than the international averages even though the gap has been consistently narrowing over time.

Increasing feminization3 of international migration in general and from South Asia in particular has spurred new issues and poses new challenges relating to institutions, processes and outcomes associated with female migration.

Increasing remittances by women migrants have reframed the development narratives in some countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka. Studies have also shown the empowering aspects of women’s migration for work abroad at the local and micro level in the countries of origin where subtle but important changes are taking place in the gender balance of power both within and outside the household (Bhadra 2007).

Nevertheless, women migrant workers from the subregion are more vulnerable to labour exploitation and human right abuse, mainly because they tend to be single and work in low-skilled occupations, primarily as domestic workers and service providers.


3 Here the term feminization of migration is used to signify the increasing importance of women migrants as the main economic providers, or ‘breadwinners’ for their households, leading to specific female forms of migration, such as the commercialized migration of domestic workers and caregivers, the migration and trafficking of women for sex work and manual labour-intensive industries and organized migration of women for marriage.