Woman picking grapes

Relevance of gender in the policy area

Around seven per cent of the total population living in the EU Member States are born outside of the EU, and half of them are women and girls. Work, study and reuniting with family members, as well as different forms of persecution, are common reasons motivating both women and men to migrate and live in other countries. Migration can bring new opportunities to migrants and their families. Especially in societies where women are limited in their mobility decisions, the act of migration, when voluntary, is in itself empowering. It may stimulate change in the women themselves and in the sending and receiving societies. However, there is also an adverse side to migration.

Women migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face different risks and insecurities in the different stages of the migration process from those faced by men. Women refugees and asylum seekers are considered as categories in most vulnerable situations, requiring a prompt and effective protection response as they are at a higher risk of gender-based violence, including trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced marriage. While some studies show that highly skilled women tend to migrate more than men, women born outside the EU experience high inactivity rates and worse employment outcomes than men migrants. Women migrants are disproportionately represented in lower paid occupations and work in the informal economy, such as domestic work and care work, where human rights abuses are commonplace. Negative media representation of migrant women’s oppression can fuel racism and xenophobia and reinforce stereotypes that stigmatise them. In the context of restrictive immigration policies, the representation of migrants – and especially Muslim women – as vulnerable, passive victims of patriarchal cultures, has opened up a space for co-opting or instrumentalising women’s rights and gender equality.

Gender is a crucial variable when looking into the policy area of migration. The lack of a gender perspective in migration, asylum and integration policies can have detrimental effects on the women and men on the move. Whether they are forced to move, migrate on voluntary basis or their reasons for migration are a combination of the two, women and men, girl and boy migrants are a highly heterogeneous group and a careful analysis of gender as a basis and source of discrimination cannot neglect or overlook diversity of experiences. Women and men migrants experience intersectional discrimination based on multiple factors including gender identity, sexual orientation, migration status, age and class.

The main gender inequality issues related to migration status in the EU are:

  • labour market participation, deskilling and the informal economy;
  • family reunification;
  • international protection;
  • gender-based violence.

Gender inequalities in the policy area – main issues

Gender equality policy objectives at EU and international level

Policy cycle in migration

Click on a phase for details

How and when? Education, training and the integration of the gender dimension into the policy cycle

The gender dimension can be integrated in all phases of the policy cycle. For a detailed description of how gender can be mainstreamed in each phase of the policy cycle click here.

Below, you can find useful resources and practical examples for mainstreaming gender into agricultural policy. They are organised according to the most relevant phase of the policy cycle they may serve.

Current policy priorities at EU level

Adopted in 2004 and reaffirmed in 2014, the Common Basic Principles for immigrant integration policy establish a common approach to the integration of third-country nationals in the EU. The document considers integration as ‘a dynamic long-term and continuous two-way process of mutual accommodation, not a static outcome’, and focuses on the relevance of mainstreaming integration policy at national level.

In 2015, the European Agenda on Migration was adopted and it emphasised the need for effective integration policies for third-country nationals. This agenda set out four levels of action for an EU migration policy, which are the following:

In 2015 the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted, with 17 sustainable development goals and their 169 related targets. There is a specific SDG (goal 5) dedicated to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and gender is mainstreamed throughout the remaining SDGs. Other migration-related goals include goal 8 on growth and decent work; goal 10 on reducing inequalities; goal 16 on peaceful, inclusive societies and access to justice for all and goal 17 on global partnership on sustainable development.

In 2016 the European Commission adopted an action plan on the integration of third-country nationals, which provides a series of actions across all policy areas that are crucial for integration. More specifically, it provides a comprehensive framework in order to support the efforts of the EU Member States in developing and enhancing their integration policies, describing at the same time concrete measures the Commission will apply in this regard.

In 2019 the Political Guidelines of the Commission 2019-2024 were presented, and include migration as one of the key policy areas under the priority of Promoting our European way of life –Protecting our citizens and our values. The policy area of migration includes the following policies:

  • Saving lives and stemming irregular migration flows;
  • Protecting borders with the European Border and Coast Guard;
  • Safe and legal pathways: a new boost for resettlement;
  • Overhauling the EU’s asylum rules.

In 2020, a new pact on asylum and migration is to be adopted, as stated in the European Commission’s work programme for 2020.

The key milestones of the EU migration policy area

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