Investing in migrant women: PerMicro at the EDD2018

PerMicro was invited as a speaker during the European Development Days, taking place in Bruxelles on 5-6th June 2018. The main topic of this year was “Women and Girls at the forefront of sustainable development: protect, empower, invest”.

Andrea Limone, CEO at PerMicro, took part in the seminar organised by the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB): “Investing in migrant women: how to support long-term integration of migrant women through economic empowerment?”.

Key points

  • Society can do more to benefit from migration
  • The migration narrative needs to concentrate on the positive impacts
  • Migrant women are an untapped entrepreneurship resource
  • Access to childcare, education and financing services empowers migrant women

Migration is a pressing concern in many countries. In Europe, migratory pressures are expected to increase over the coming decades. The complex challenge of long-term integration is being tackled by many societies. As lessons are learned, some societies are now better equipped to seize the opportunities that migration brings.

European initiatives and projects that support migrants throughout the integration process were debated. The first step in the process is to help migrants face some of the challenges that they find on arrival. These include the language barrier, negotiating different social and culture norms and, for highly skilled migrants, the non-recognition of qualifications.

Some inspiring projects at local level are helping to change the narrative around migration. They do so by presenting positive role models. For example, connecting people – locals and newly arrived migrants – around a shared interest, such as cuisine or the hosting of refugees in locals’ homes, and work placements are helping to develop social cohesion.

Likewise, mentoring projects led by migrant women who have settled for new arrivals helps smooth integration. In these ways, the perception of migration changes for the positive, its wider benefits are better understood and migrants are not seen as a homogenous mass.

Labour market participation is crucial to speed up integration. However, research shows that, while migrant women are more likely than men to want to integrate fully and set up home in their host country, they are often marginalised, facing double discrimination in access to employment, due to status and gender.

Facilitating economic empowerment and financial inclusion of migrant women could deliver significant economic benefits for an untapped resource. This would help to challenge the negative populist migration narrative.

Positive stories were told of successful entrepreneurial initiatives led by migrant women who have settled in Europe – often financed by microcredit agencies and supported by EU financing institutions. The various examples demonstrate how resilient migrants – and especially women – can be in getting on with their lives in new surroundings.

Gender equality is key to making the most of migrant women’s entrepreneurial skills. Big gaps remain in employment rates for migrant women, when compared to other groups. They are more likely to be in part-time employment, receive lower wages.

Those with higher education who have jobs are more likely to be underemployed.

Support programmes at all levels need to ensure that migrant women get greater access to language classes, quicker access to social employment services, access to financing, access to childcare – with the added benefit of integrating children as well. In this way women can participate fully in their new society and accelerate their long-term integration.

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