Labour migration has led to an increase in the independence of women and their influence over household decisions, but more could be done to harness the positive impact these women have, according to a research paper.
The paper, ‘Women Migrants, Remittances and Their Impact in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’, was authored by Dr Ismail Hakki Genc, professor of economics, and Dr George Naufal, assistant professor of economics, at the American University of Sharjah, and was sponsored by the Western Union Company.
It examined macroeconomic indicators and available research on women workers in the Middle East as well as in other regions.
The paper found that women have become increasingly independent when it comes to financial matters, both in the GCC states where they have gone to work, and in their home countries when their husbands work overseas.
Women were found to be more reliable than men when remitting funds to their families back home, tend to allocate more resources to support family living expenses and human capital, compared with their male counterparts, who tend to focus on building physical capital, and are more likely to act as a safety net for their family back home during emergencies and bad economic times.
“At Western Union, we have seen that the empowerment of women is an important driver in improving the welfare of families and communities around the world, both in places abroad where they work and in their home countries,” said Sobia Rahman, Western Union’s regional vice president.
The report highlighted that many women are employed in unskilled jobs incommensurate with their education levels. For example, almost 60 per cent of female expatriate workers in Dubai hold a university degree or higher graduate degree. This suggests that highly educated women should be supported by their home and host countries to reach their full potential, the report said.
Some 78 per cent of female expatriate remitters in Dubai send money home to the older generations of their families, suggesting that host country policies that unite families would have a significant impact on women and stem the outflow of remittances from the GCC.
“Well-designed policies – which could include support groups, as well as opportunities and facilities for expatriates to observe cultural traditions and celebrations – would attract workers, raise the status of the host country and increase global economic efficiency by reducing unemployment,” Dr Naufal said. “Through these measures, the positive impact of expatriate women in both their home and host countries would increase significantly”.
In conjunction with the release of the research paper, Western Union is inviting expatriate women to share their stories in their host countries while supporting their families. Entries will be accepted on the Women Icons Facebook page.