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Focusing on women on International Migrants Day

On International Migrants Day a special thought goes to all the women moving to join their families, escape poverty, improve their living and professional opportunities, or indeed to escape conflict and adverse environmental situations.

Female migrants and refugees accounted for 48.1% of the total of 280 million migrant population in 2020[1]. They play a very important and growing role particularly as labour migrants representing a figure of 70 million in 2019[2], i.e. 41.5% of the total of labour migrants.

The main fields of work for migrant women include health and caregiving, tourism, services and agriculture. Female migration is also a significant component of seasonal and circular migration.

Skills’ levels of female migrants have been growing over the last decades, in line with global trends. More and more highly skilled women leave their countries to look for better professional prospects or to access high level studies. Tertiary level female students who migrated to study abroad accounted for approximately 3 million or 46.6% of the total in 2020[3].

Despite the importance of female labour migration development of the skills needed by migrant women to make the best out of migration are often neglected, with a lack of specific support measures to upskill and reskill female migrants. This leads to underutilization of female migrants’ skills and qualifications with negative effects on their salary levels and living conditions.

To tap on this potential for better utilization of female migrants’ knowledge and expertise the ETF has just launched a study to learn about their skills’ needs.  Female migrants with low and medium skills levels will be interviewed in the first semester of 2023 in Georgia, Morocco and Tunisia. This will provide primary evidence on skill gaps and opportunities for improvement in training provision and measures to accompany them to better access the international labour markets.

Building on the findings of the interviews, the ETF will provide policy recommendations for education and training systems on how to better address the upskilling and reskilling needs of female migrants in areas such as vocational training, life skills and knowledge of foreign languages. Issues of recognition of qualifications and validation of informal and non-formal learning will also come into the picture with the aim to provide a comprehensive inspirational basis for policy makers of the three countries, for European Commission services and for other countries as well.

This study “Female migrants as learners” is part of the ETF work on the skills dimension of migration to improve the access of migrants in EU Member states, ETF partner countries and beyond to better jobs for better lives.

The ETF also supports European Commission services in policy dialogue with Partner countries to improve labour migration management through legal and win-win mechanisms, such as the Talent Partnerships foreseen in the new pact on Migration and asylum.

More details on ETF work on migration are available at Skills and migration | ETF (europa.eu).


[1] UN DESA, international migrant stock 2020, total stock (both sexes) is 280 million

[2] ILO, 2021, “global estimates on international migrant workers” Labour migration data (migrationdataportal.org), total estimate (both sexes) is 169 million of migrant workers

[3] UIS UNESCO, indicator: inbound internationally mobile students

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