FEMAGE project investigates the lives of women migrants
The FEMAGE project evaluated how third country immigrant women cope with obstacles and strengthen their economic and social integration in Europe. The project partners assessed the women's experiences, expectations and living conditions over a two-year period. Their results shed new light on the women's experiences of migration and integration and identify the ageing societies. They also raise awareness about how to fuel the women's economic and social integration, as well as their emancipation. The project was funded by the EU under the Sixth Framework Programme with EUR 973 887.
The FEMAGE researchers conducted an international comparative analysis to delve into the migration history, life course perspectives, gender roles and ethnicity of the women migrants as well as their expectations about their old age. The results show that the migration of such women has a huge impact on their family lives and gender roles.
FEMAGE used a multi-method approach, conducting 239 interviews with female immigrants from 9 ethnic groups in 8 European countries, and drawing on data from the Population Policy Acceptance Survey (PPA) — which contains information from 21 812 Europeans — to assess what the native population thinks about the migrants and their integration in their host countries. The project also organised one European and eight national focus group discussions on the results of the study. The focus groups consisted of stakeholders, experts and migrants.
According to the researchers, the findings revealed that the destabilisation of family networks occurs frequently, and that women are compelled to adjust their gender role models. Both migrants and natives questioned in the survey said they prefer a 'modern approach towards gender roles and task division'.
The question of ethnicity highlighted the similarities between the different immigrant groups from diverse ethnic backgrounds. All migrant women involved in the study had got into a social, economic, legal or emotional vacuum, the research team said, adding that the women were made to feel inferior because of their gender.
With respect to the women's own ageing perspectives, the partners said social isolation and insufficient labour market participation could trigger a number of problems, including the inability to make serious plans for their old age in the host country.
The analysis indicated that negative views on migration issues in the eight participating countries outweigh the positive ones; this is particularly true for eastern European countries compared with western states. The research also highlighted the fact that native populations are especially concerned about competition with migrants on the labour market.
Furthermore, the results showed that migrant women perceive the native populations in a more positive light, and that they believe the natives perceive them positively as well. Most natives believe that migrants should adapt to the host countries.
The study's findings also underlined the fact that most migrant women aim to become fully integrated in their host countries, and the majority have either become naturalised or plan to do so.
Meanwhile, the focus groups' members said that migrants have an easier time integrating in their host countries thanks to early labour market participation, which also curtails the migrants' long-term dependency on social welfare payments.
According to the experts involved in the study, the benefits of migration and integration must be made more visible to society as a whole. 'There is a need to assist migrant women to foster their independence,' the focus group panellists said. They added that women migrants would benefit from support that promotes their independence and addresses gender-specific issues, such as labour market disadvantages and childcare, which affect both native and migrant women.
The FEMAGE partners said that not only can European institutions and actors play a significant role in defining standards and the framework conditions for effective immigration and integration policies, but the European Parliament and European Commission can help the gender aspects of immigration and integration of women migrants assume a central position in policy formulation.