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How Women Migrant Workers Closed the Remittance Gender Gap

In 1605, the first woman was granted a university degree. In 1881, the suffragists gained the right to vote in the Isle of Man. And in 2017? Women migrant workers closed the remittance gender gap.

According to the latest IFAD Sustainable Development Goals report, 100 million mothers and daughters now equal half the number of remittance senders.

Remittances—money transfers sent by migrants to a relative or individual in their home country—are a crucial source of income for millions of families in developing countries.

As stated by the IOM (International Organization for Migration), remittances “are recognized by governments and international organizations as important tools for reducing household poverty and enhancing local development, competing with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries.”

The United Nations believes “empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.”

More women are finding jobs abroad due to a growing demand for domestic and care work, which, aside from furthering the journey towards gender equality, represents a substantial win for both the remittance sector and the families that depend on it.

Women migrant workers and their relationship with remittances

In 2016, even before the gap was closed, women were already contributing close to 50 percent of the estimated USD$601 billion sent in remittances that year.

While women earn less on average, another gap in need of closing, they tend to send back a higher percentage of their salary compared to men. Also, it’s worth noting that women have a habit of prioritizing health, education and community development.

For example, a study conducted in Nicaragua found women migrant workers sent back 73 percent of their income on average while men sent back 65.

Thanks to this upsurge in remittance senders, there was a reported 8.5 percent increase in remittances to middle- and low-income countries, totaling $466 billion in money transfers worldwide.

This growth is significant given that, as stated in the IFAD report, remittances represent about 60% of receiving households’ incomes.

However, a lot of work still needs to be done.

Without proper financial education and better wages, women will have a difficult time breaking out of this cycle.

The informal nature of the job sectors they occupy can also keep them from opening bank accounts and prevents them from gaining access to social security.

As an international community, it is our responsibility to help remove these hurdles.

How the United Nations uses remittances to push for gender equality

Inclusive economic growth is paramount to meet the needs of women and minorities.

That’s why the United Nations’ G20 Leaders communiqué talks about the importance of remittances every year.

Members are urged to make the most of their National Remittance Plans, ensuring a supportive environment that can maximize the positive impact of money transfers on local economic development.

Solutions are being progressively implemented, such as affordable money transfer services for migrants.

To continue bringing down the cost of remittances, governments must keep fostering competition in the sector and eliminating exclusivity deals.

Women should also have access to education, social support and plans for saving and investing, so they can have better control over their finances.

To this end, many organizations and international programs such as UN Women (United Nations) are significantly contributing to gender equality, putting together initiatives to encourage women and promote their inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.

The importance of money transfers in the eyes of the United Nations

If you think about it, higher remittance levels translate to higher financial independence and stability.

Women now have better employment opportunities than previous generations of migrant workers. Today, they can explore different career avenues thanks to financial independence.

That means that the increase in remittances within the female demographic benefits the women at both ends of the transaction.

The powerful impact of migrant women in the remittance sector is now unquestionable. But we must continue taking steps towards gender equality, not only for the women but for the families they support. 

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