The issue

Today, around the world, people are on the move. They are migrating to escape poverty, improve their livelihood and opportunities, or escaping conflict and devastation in their own countries. Women represent almost half of the 244 million migrants and half of the 19.6 million refugees worldwide [1].

The remittances sent by women migrant workers improve the livelihood and health of their families and strengthen economies. In 2015, international migrants sent $432.6 billion in remittances to developing countries—nearly three times the amount of Official Development Assistance, which totaled at $131.6 billion [2].

Women are often the first responders in a crisis, and whether en route or in camps, in home countries or destination countries, they play a crucial role in caring for, sustaining and rebuilding their communities.

Yet, refugee and migrant women’s needs, priorities and voices are often missing from policies designed to protect and assist them.

Fast facts

  • Between 2000 and 2015, the number of international migrants has increased by 41 per cent to reach 244 million. Almost half of them are women [3].
  • Migrants, especially migrant women, have higher labour force participation rates (72.7 per cent) than non-migrants (63.9 per cent) [4].
  • Almost every sixth domestic worker in the world is an international migrant, and women make up 73.4 per cent of international migrant domestic workers [5].
  • Yet, only 22 countries have ratified the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers (No. 189), which recognizes the additional vulnerabilities of women domestic workers and protects the rights and dignity of all domestic workers.
  • Today, 50 per cent of the world’s refugees are women and girls [6]. Yet, only 4 per cent of projects in UN inter-agency appeals were targeted at women and girls in 2014, and just 0.4 per cent of all funding to fragile states went to women’s groups or women’s ministries from 2012 to 2013 [7].
  • According to UN reports, 60 per cent of preventable maternal deaths take place in humanitarian settings and at least 1 in 5 refugees or displaced women are estimated to have experienced sexual violence [8].
  • The number of internally displaced persons stood at almost 40 million at the end of 2014. Current data suggests that women living in protracted displacement slightly outnumber men and their hardships get worse over time [9].

Placing women in decision-making roles and including their needs and realities in policies and solutions designed to address global migration and the refugee crisis make them more sustainable and responsive.

Looking for more facts and figures? See related infographics.

Closing the Gender Gap                                     Migrant Domestic Workers



Photo Essays

Stories of hope from a Cameroon refugee camp In DRC, women refugees rebuild lives, with determination and hope In the Philippines, women migrant workers rebuild lives, advocate for each other
To the world they are known as “refugees”. Nameless, faceless, all the same. But each of them have a different story to tell, of their lives, who they lost, and how they got here. Fleeing from the devastating conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), today they are rebuilding their lives, one day at a time, in a camp in Cameroon. UN Women supports economic and social rehabilitation to some 6,250 vulnerable women and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence there. These are some of their stories » Burundi’s ongoing political turmoil has caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and seek shelter in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the Lusenda refugee camp, which is home to more than 16,000 refugees, the majority are women and girls. Hundreds of refugees have come to the Safe Haven multipurpose centres for protection and economic and social empowerment, established by UN Women. Here’s a glimpse into daily life at the camp and the centres » In the past two decades, an annual average of 172,000 Filipino women have left the country as migrant workers, in the quest for decent work and adequate income. Many endure abuse and exploitation and need reintegration support upon return. A UN Women program is strengthening the capacity of migrant women’s organizations and networks to better serve and assist women migrant workers. These are their stories »

Click here to read more stories of women refugees and migrants



[1] UN General Assembly (2016). In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, Report of the Secretary-General.

[2] The World Bank Group (2015). The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016

[3] UN General Assembly (2016). In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants, Report of the Secretary-General.

[4] ILO (2015). ILO global estimates on migrant workers

[5] Ibid. p.7


[7] UN OCHA (2015) World Humanitarian Data and Trends, p. 23.

[8]  United Nations Economic and Social Council (2014) Gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters, Report of the Secretary-General.

[9] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2015). Global Overview 2015, People internally displaced by conflict and violence.