MYTH: Most migrants are men

MYTH: Most migrants are men

Half of all international immigrants are women, and the percentage grows each year. During the 1960s and 1970s the majority of migrants were men. Since the early 1980s, increasing number of women – both single and married, and often better educated than men – have been moving on their own to take up jobs in other countries. According to data from the United Nations Population Division the number of female migrants grew faster than the number of male migrants between 1965 and 1990 in the most important receiving countries, industrialised as well as developing. 

Despite the traditional believe that women migrate to reunite with their families, over the half of the female migrants from South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean moved in search of employment. In South Asia and Africa, the percentage of female migrants moving due to economic motives approaches 50%.

Females migrants somewhat less than half, 130 million or  47.9%, of the global international migrant stock. The share of female migrants has declined from 49.1% in 2000 to 47.9% in 2019, whereas the proportion of male migrants grew from 50.7% in 2000 to 52.1% in 2019. 

In 2017, migrant workers were estimated to be 58.4% male and 41.6% female. At 63.5% and 48.1% respectively, the labour force participation rate of migrant women was higher than that of non-migrant women in 2017. This pattern holds true in all groups of countries except low-income countries. Since 2013, the labour force participation rates of female migrants are higher than that of non-migrant women, but there is little difference in the labour force participation rates of male migrants compared to non-migrant males.

Female migrants outnumber male migrants in the North, whereas male migrants outnumber female migrants in the South. In 2019, 47.9% of all international migrants were women, but that percentage ranged from 43.4% in the less developed regions to 51.5% in the more developed regions. Although female migrants outnumber male migrants in Northern America (51.8%), Europe (51.4%) and Oceania (50.4%), they are less numerous in Latin America and the Caribbean (49.9%), Central and Southern Asia (49.4%), Eastern and South Eastern Asia (49.3%), sub-Saharan Africa (47.5%) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (35.5%).

Between 2000 and 2019, the percentage of female migrants increased in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia, Oceania and Northern America, while it decreased in Northern Africa and Western Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe. These regional differences result from a combination of factors, such as varying levels of labour migration, population ageing of migrants and forced migration.

Since government-sponsored violence began in Syria in 2011 (and many other countries faced destabilisation, crushing poverty, untenable violence, or some combination of the three) waves of immigrants, migrants, and refugees have swept into the European and American continents, crashing against increasing obstacles to safe landings: anti-immigrant sentiment, stronger border controls, and racially-motivated politics.  Rumours and misinformation have been an integral part of anti-refugee campaigns across the world, among them the claim that migrants and refugees are suspiciously young, able-bodied, and male — in other words, like “soldiers,” “terrorists,” or (as stoma media say outright) “invaders.”

However, the statistics on refugees contradict this claim.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of 16 March 2016 they had recorded nearly 5 million registered Syrian refugees: 2.1 million of them in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, another 1.9 million in Turkey, and more than 28,000 in North Africa. Of that group of 5 million refugees, more than half (50.7%) are female.

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