5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Investing in migrant women

How to support long-term integration of migrant women through economic empowerment?

Lab debate
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
14:00 to 15:15

Migration has become a most pressing concern in Europe. In addition to the recent crisis, migratory pressures will increase over the coming decades and many countries will face the complex challenge of long-term integration. While labour inclusion plays a crucial role in the integration of migrants, research shows that migrant women face double discrimination in accessing employment, due both to status and gender. This marginalization of migrant women is ultimately detrimental to the social cohesion of their host communities. How can we support long-term integration by facilitating economic empowerment and financial inclusion of migrant women? This lab session will discuss initiatives and means that support migrant women’s access to sustainable income-generation. 

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


In seeking to support migrants, overly targeted approaches serve to exclude rather than include – projects should encourage social cohesion by embracing diversity.

Organised by


Shada Islam
Friends of Europe
Nuria Diez Guardia
Policy Officer
European Commission - DG for Migration and Home Affairs (HOME)
Andrea Limone
Inesse Benmohammed
Director of Entrepreneurship Programmes
Isabelle Brun
Technical Advisor
Council of Europe Development Bank