Human mobilization searching for a better life or refugee is an old form of human interaction that is constantly changing. Women have always been part of the migratory processes, but their presence differs over time and context. The role women have played in the national and international sphere has been dramatically transforming over the years. The feminization of migration is neither new nor a sudden trend that entails different stages of progress.
According to the IOM (2015), women’s remittances are among the largest source of cash revenue and are considered a vital component of the GDP of the origin country (Mohyddin, 2017). Moreover, women tend to remit the same or even more than men (UNWOMEN, 2020).
Migration and subsequent remittances of female migrants are highly impacting the origin country. Female mobility and remittances have a great potential in shaping the financial and economic factors in origin countries and eventually contribute to the development processes of their origin societies.
The following article will include a different type of influential mean of female migrants which is remittances. It explores the effect of women’s migrant remittances on the national level of their origin country.
Effects of Women Migrant Remittances on the National Level:
One of the most visible contributions of female migrants to their origin country is financial remittances to its direct effect on families’ consumption patterns and the banking sector. According to the UN (2002), female migrants constitute around 50% of international migrants. The quantitative growth is reflected in the World Bank report (2015) of the estimated $582 Billion of global remittances in which female migrants are responsible for half of them. Why is this important? because economic remittances have the potential to promote social and economic development on the national level.
Importantly remittances that are transferred through formal channels contribute to the development of the financial sector in the origin country and to its economic growth (Siegel & Lucke, 2013). Alternatively, the channel used by migrants to transfer their money plays a significant role in their effectiveness in the origin country. As Siegel and Lucke (2013) argued, transnational activities and patterns of migrants and their families impact the macroeconomic development of the country. Informal channels or remitting money such as sending them through unauthorized or illegal operators or by cash through relatives or friends, prevent the financial sector from their benefits. Some migrants use informal channels for low cost or inaccessibility for formal channels. Another important reason for using the formal channels is avoiding abusing the money for money laundering or financing terrorism (Siegel & Lucke, 2013). Hence, the effect of financial remittances is not limited to the growth of the banking sector driven by money mobility in which this mobility causes a cyclic effect on the whole country.
Indeed female migrants are more likely to remit more money to their origin countries and to prioritize the usage of their remittances on health, education, family, and community development (GFMD, 2015). In fact, the impact of remittances on long-term economic development is still ambiguous, yet remittances have the potential to increase consumption and alleviate the poverty of the receivers which enhances short-term and long-term investments growth. For instance, some migrants invest their remittances in building houses in their original village. This moves the economic cycle in their village by providing jobs for local builders and businesses. This “virtuous cycle” that was formed by remittances spill over the local economic cycle (GFMD, 2015).
Migrant women are considered development agents for their contribution to the economy. However, in order to harness remittances for sustainable economic progress, policies should be set to encourage and help manage women’s remittances (IOM,2015) combined with building developed infrastructure and protected channels maximizes the effect of remittances expenditure (GFMD,2015). An ideal example that shows the significance of female migrant remittances and their management is the Filipino female labor migrants. Filipino women are pushed by the government to become transnational migrants as a means for economic development. After reaching 6.8% unemployment in the Philippines with a population growth of 1.6% (World Bank, 2015), Philippine laborers started to look for overseas jobs. In 2012 the percentage of female migrants was 54.5% from the 2.25 million Filipino migrant workers (Mohyuddin, 2017). This transnational mobility is promoted by governmental policies that support women in destination countries, protect them, and direct them to careers that provide them with an overseas jobs.
By the same token, female migrant remittances differ in their spending patterns from male senders. According to the household theory about migration decisions, management of resources is differentiated between female and male migrants. Indeed their consumption patterns and priorities for spending money differ among them in which women prioritize nutrition, education, and health from the family (Omelaniuk, World Bank).
Many scholars explained the reasons behind those differences and explained how they diverge. One report of the Global Commission on International Migration (2005) states that women have a higher sense of responsibility towards their families and communities which pushes them to remit more and to be more responsible towards their obligations in front of their families (Faist,2009). Another factor that accounts for women surpassing male’s remittances to origin countries is their new accomplished sense of power and independence. After female’s migration and working, the power dynamics changed largely as mentioned before. Those dynamics reflect in the household and in public. Besides, this newly shaped role exposed her to different obligations. Considering this, women try to prove themselves in front of their family members left behind and their societies and to achieve the goals set for their journey, plus to gain their bargain over their power and role. Moreover, migration is an opportunity for resistance and fighting for women who don’t accept the rigid femininity and masculinity in their origin country (Morokvasic, 2014). Consequently, this is associated with the high sense of responsibility in women which puts them under pressure to be more committed.
Nevertheless, this article doesn’t assume that female migration has no negative effects on several aspects; rather it redefines female migrant’s contribution to their origin country. Women’s migration has substantial social costs on the migrants themselves and their family members (Ratha, Mohapatra, Scheja, 2011). In many cases children of migrants who are left behind suffer from rejection or neglect from their fathers or members who are responsible for them (UN, 2003). The UN report mentions the case of Sri Lanka where most migrants are low-skilled females who work as domestic workers, their family life is disrupted or their children are neglected after their migration of their mother. This puts them in danger of being harassed or abused and has the potential of having a long-term psychological and mental impact.
The negative effects don’t stop here. The separation of female migrants who are mothers is affecting the family relations and those between mothers and their children. Due to the lack of family reunion programs and policies, migrant workers are considered absent and not playing their supposed roles. These females are called “Absentee mothers” and their children are “mobility orphans” who are growing up without the tangible presence and influence of their primary caregivers (IOM, 2015).
Those two phenomena have several psychological and social impacts even though some scholars argue that this is not always the case. A study In Thailand found that the children of migrant parents have a more positive image of their own well-being (Jampaklay, Vapattanawong, 2013). Another phenomenon that was created by women’s migration is “transitional parenting” (GFMD, 2015). It is defined as the material connections that need to preserve family ties across borders, in which it is incompatible with the traditional style of families in the origin countries.
Notwithstanding, this should not lead to the assumption that those negative sides are limited to female migrants. The absence of any family member may cause negative consequences on the well-being of the children and the relationship in the family. It is important to look at and discuss both consequences of female migration and consider them both in policy strategies.
Indeed, a female’s contribution in their origin countries at the familial and national level is indispensable and powerful in the short and long term. Changing societies, reconstructing norms, and developing the economy are significant for every country and are undoable without the interference of the feminine half of the society.
To sum up, countries that provided the opportunity for women to migrate and work are accelerating on the development scale due to the social and economic remittances women migrants have been bringing back to their origin countries. Female mobility has increased the potential of women to contribute to shaping the power dynamics and the social structure that have been affecting and hindering female progress for decades. Furthermore, due to migratory processes and their dynamical interactions female migrants are more empowered and capable of taking roles in modeling the local, national, and international spheres.