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« Internal migration »

Modified on 2013/05/16 15:19 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Migration, displaced persons and refugees
From gender issues to gender statistics on internal migration: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Are migration geographic patterns the same for women and men? Number of internal migrants by sex, place of destination and place of origin

Population by sex, place of residence, place of previous residence and duration of current residence (or, alternatively, place of residence at a specified date in the past)
Population registers or other administrative sources

Population censuses
Household surveys such as labour force surveys or living standard surveys
Do women migrate within a country for the same reasons as men? Number of internal migrants by sex and reason for moving. Data for at least two time intervals.

Population by sex, age, place of residence, place of previous residence, duration of current residence and reason for moving. Data for at least two points in time.
Population registers or other administrative sources


Household surveys such as labour force surveys or living standard surveys
Do women migrants have demographic and economic behaviour similar to women in communities of origin or to women in communities of destination? Children ever born by woman’s age, educational attainment, migration status (non-migrant, migrant from rural areas, migrant from urban areas) and current residence (rural/urban areas).

Number of women by age, educational attainment, employment status, migration status (non-migrant, migrant from rural areas, migrant from urban areas), type of income (in cash or in kind) and current residence (rural/urban areas)

Participation of married women in intrahousehold decision-making by age, migration status (non-migrant, migrant from rural areas, migrant from urban areas) and current residence (rural/urban areas)
Population censuses
Household surveys such as DHS.




Household surveys such as labour force surveys or living standard surveys





Household surveys such as DHS

  • + Gender issues
    • Women tend to have different reasons to migrate than men, as shaped by gender-specific constraints in the communities of origin and differences in opportunities in the communities of destination. These gender differences are reflected in the patterns of internal migration for women and men and in the types of jobs obtained by migrant women and migrant men at the destination. Traditionally women have migrated shorter distances than men within a country, so that they have been more often found in rural to rural migration and migration within the same province or state (United Nations, 2008). In some countries from South Asia, for example, the tradition of women marrying men from a different village contributed to the overrepresentation of women among rural-to-rural migrants. By comparison, men have been more attracted to employment opportunities in cities. However, this may not be the case anymore. In many countries, women outnumber men not only in rural-to-rural migration but also in rural-to-urban and urban-to-urban migration (United Nations, 2000). As traditional attitudes change and educational and economic opportunities increase, young women are increasingly migrating to seek higher education or employment (United Nations, 2000). At the same time, less educated unmarried women are encouraged to seek work and contribute to their families’ economic survival. Young women often seek work, and are preferred instead of men, as domestic workers in cities, in manufacturing enterprises, or on plantations, as they are thought to be more suited for repetitive tasks, more obedient, and more willing to accept lower wages (United Nations, 2000). In some cases, daughters who migrate can be better relied on than sons to send part of their earnings back to their families (United Nations, 2000).

      Migration tends to have an effect on women’s status. Women who migrate from rural to urban areas generally have more children and are less likely to use modern contraceptives than long-term urban residents (United Nations, 2000). However, the longer women migrants remain in the city the more their reproductive behaviours come to resemble the behaviours of long-term city dwellers. Women migrating from rural areas to urban areas may also have higher economic autonomy and power of decision-making in the household than women remaining in the rural areas. Similarly, young migrant men may also be empowered to challenge patriarchal structures within the family (UNDP, 2009).

      In the communities of origin, when their husbands migrate, women remaining behind may change their status. For example, women may gain more decision-making power on how to allocate household resources for the education and health of children for instance, as they become heads of their households. At the same time, women may become more vulnerable to poverty when their husbands do not send home part of their earnings. Similarly, older persons, most of whom are women, may become more vulnerable to poverty when their children moved out of their communities of origin and do not provide economic support.

  • + Data needed
    • Statistics on flows of internal migrants, reasons for migrating and migration patterns:

      Number of internal migrants during a calendar year by sex, age and reasons for moving.

      Number of internal migrants during a calendar year by sex, age, place of destination (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division) and place of origin (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division). When possible, this information should be further disaggregated by reasons for moving.

      As much as possible the statistics above should be further disaggregated by marital status, educational attainment, employment status, status in employment and occupation.

      Additional data on total population by sex, age, marital status, educational attainment, employment status, status in employment and occupation at places of destination or at places of origin are needed in order to calculate in- or out-migration rates for various groups of population.

      Statistics on stocks of internal migrants and migration patterns:

      Lifetime migration - Population by sex, age, place of residence (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division) and place of birth (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division).

      Recent migration - Population by sex, age, place of residence (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division), duration of current residence and place of previous residence (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division). Alternative: population by sex, age, place of residence (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division) and place of previous residence (urban/rural residence and region or other major civil division) at a specified date in the past (5 years ago, for example).

      As much as possible the statistics above should be further disaggregated by educational attainment, employment status, status in employment and occupation.

      Statistics on consequences of migration on families in countries of origin and women’s empowerment:

      Number of internal migrants sending remittances to their families (partner and children) or parents by sex of migrant. Additional data on the amount of remittances sent and frequency of sending are also useful.

      Number of households with incomplete families due to temporary internal migration (at least one adult out-migrant) by sex of the out-migrant.

      In order to show the effect of migration on women’s empowerment, migration status can be used as a breakdown variable for statistics reflecting empowerment of women such as fertility, use of modern contraception, and participation in intrahousehold decision-making. Migration status should distinguish between non-migrants, rural-to-urban migrants, urban-to-urban migrants, rural-to-rural migrants and urban-to-rural migrants. In addition, control variables such as age and educational attainment should be used.


  • + Examples of indicators derived from gender statistics on internal migration:
    • Out-migration rate from rural areas to urban areas by sex

      Proportion of internal out-migrants among the working aged population with at least secondary education by sex

      Proportion of internal migrants sending remittances to their families (partner and children) or parents by sex of the migrant

      Proportion of households with incomplete families due to temporary internal migration (at least one adult out-migrant) by sex of the out-migrant


  • + Sources of data
    • Population censuses are often the main source of data on stocks of internal migrants and the distribution of internal migrants by various characteristics. The information on lifetime migration is based on questions on place of usual residence and place of birth. The information on more recent migration is based on place of usual residence, place of previous residence, and duration of residence; or, alternatively, on place of usual residence and place of residence at a specified date in the past (such as 1 year ago, or 5 years ago). Population censuses are also a source of information on patterns of migration by urban/rural areas, regions or other civil divisions, as well as by characteristics such as educational attainment, employment status, status in employment, and occupation.

      Household surveys are also a source of data on stocks of internal migrants and the distribution of internal migrants by various characteristics. Surveys collecting data on internal migration may be either dedicated surveys or other surveys in the regular programme of a national statistical office that include a module or some questions on internal migration. Such surveys may be labour force surveys or living standard measurement surveys. Compared to censuses, household surveys can collect more information related to internal migrants, including (a) partial or complete migration history (places of previous residences and dates of changing residence); (b) reasons for migration; (c) individual and household characteristics with potential impact on the decision to migrate, such as marital status, education, employment, individual earnings, prior movement of family members, sources of income for the household of origin, or some measures of access to social networks; and (d) information on some consequences of migration such as remittances, women empowerment, or living arrangements for family members left in the community of origin. Most of this information is usually collected from the internal migrants or their household members in the communities of destination. However, some data, such as data on living arrangements and sources of income for family members left behind, may be collected from household members in communities of origin.

      Population registers that are well maintained and with good coverage are valuable sources of statistics on current in- and out- migration flows, reasons for migration, and on the number and characteristics of the internal migrant stock of an area. Other administrative records of changes in residence, like income tax returns and drivers licence address, may also be used to estimate internal migration flows and collect information on reasons for migration.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • In countries where women tend to migrate shorter distances than men, measurements limited to migration between states or provinces are likely to underreport women’s level of mobility.

      Data on lifetime migration tend to overestimate the share of women among migrants, simply because women tend to live longer than men. Therefore, data on lifetime migration should be disaggregated by age or, alternatively, data on recent migration should be used. Focusing on lifetime migration may also provide an incomplete picture of gender differences in migration, when short-term migration tends to be associated with one of the two sexes.

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