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Gendered barriers to basic services among migrant users: a comparative study

Welfare State
Immigration
Comparative Perspective
Sebastián Umpierrez de Reguero
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
María Soledad Escobar
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
Sebastián Umpierrez de Reguero
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC

Abstract

According to literature, migrants may face risks of gender-based discrimination in receiving countries because laws and policies that often reproduce or reinforce existing gender inequalities in their countries of origin. It means that all aspects of migration are influenced by a person’s gender: from the reasons for migrating, integration in countries of destination, the work performed, and the challenges faced in accessing basic services. Likewise, discrimination based on race, ethnicity, cultural particularities, nationality, language or other status may be expressed in gender-specific ways. Migration can be an expression of women’s agency as well as a vehicle for their empowerment. For many women, migration may be a positive experience leading to a better life and enhancing their livelihood opportunities, autonomy and agency. However, these women can also be exposed to situations of greater vulnerability –compared to their male counterparts- e.g. when interacting with public services in receiving countries. Based on 77 semi-structured interviews with local service providers, this paper explores, from a comparative perspective, the specific challenges identified faced by female migrants of different origins in accessing main basic resources: housing, healthcare, employment and social services. The interviews were conducted in Spain, Hungary, Belgium and Germany. Our work aims to investigate frontline workers’ experiences and attitudes in assisting female migrants with different backgrounds. Which specificities do they find in working with minority women? Which group of females do providers find particularly challenging to work with? Based on the cross-country comparison, the paper also provides a series of recommendations for providers and policy makers on how to improve assistance to these women.