How Mexican Migrant Women Are Ruling the Remittances

Explore the role of women in Mexican migration and remittances. Experts shed light on their motivations, contributions, and the gendered aspects of mobility. Gain valuable insights into this dynamic phenomenon shaping communities and economies.

How Mexican Migrant Women Are Ruling the Remittances
Women migrants working in the agricultural sector, contributing to the labor force, and sending remittances back to their families in Mexico. Credit: UNAM

Migration is a complex phenomenon that has undergone significant growth over the past five decades, with nearly 300 million people currently residing outside their countries of origin. A significant portion of this migrant population comprises women. Contrary to traditional perceptions that portrayed women as immobile individuals primarily engaged in household chores, recent data indicates that women are equally mobile as men. According to academics from the Institute of Economic Research (IIEc) at the UNAM, although precise data is lacking, it is estimated that around 30 percent of remittances sent by Mexican migrants in the United States come from women aged between 20 and 45 years old.

At a roundtable titled "Ellas también se van: Mujeres migrantes" (They also leave: Migrant women) organized by the IIEc, experts shed light on the gendered aspects of migration and its consequences on communities of origin, as well as transit, destination, and return countries such as Mexico. Daniela Castro Alquicira emphasized that women migrate for various reasons, including seeking better job opportunities, pursuing education, family reunification, or escaping risks and threats in their places of origin, leading to significant numbers seeking asylum or refuge.

One noteworthy finding highlighted by Patricia Pozos is the increasing trend of young Mexican migrants, as young as 12 or 13 years old, leaving their home country to work in the United States. This phenomenon occurs when parents have already migrated to the neighboring country. The motivation behind this labor migration stems from the insufficient income of family heads, prompting mothers and older children to join the labor market to contribute to household expenses. The need for economic support often compels young Mexicans to work at an early age.

Pozos further explained that while it is true that countries of origin often fail to provide necessary opportunities for development, it is also essential to acknowledge the significance of young migrants in the countries of arrival. These young migrants are instrumental in sustaining the labor force due to their ability to endure long working hours without requiring extensive medical services. Furthermore, they help fill the gap left by retiring U.S. citizens, as the younger domestic population is inadequate to replace the aging workforce. According to the American Community Survey, only 11.5 percent of Mexicans living in the United States possess citizenship, and an even smaller percentage has the opportunity to pursue education.

Alejandro Méndez highlighted the increasing number of migrant women, particularly mothers, and young women entering the labor market. Female labor is often favored due to its cost-effectiveness, and various productive activities rely on their contributions. He further emphasized the broader representation of women in migratory flows and society in general. In universities, for instance, women now make up over 50 percent of the student population, indicating their increased visibility and progress in fighting for their rights.

In the modern digital economy, women have also found employment in precarious labor spaces, with a considerable proportion engaged in the care sector. Méndez emphasized that migration is not merely a statistical phenomenon but a deeply emotional and challenging process that millions of people have experienced throughout the years.

Despite the valuable insights provided by the experts, it is crucial to acknowledge the need for further research and comprehensive data on women's migration patterns, remittance contributions, and the consequences of their mobility. By shedding light on the experiences of migrant women, policymakers can develop targeted interventions to support their specific needs and harness the potential they bring to both their countries of origin and destination.