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Factors and Dynamics Affecting and Explinaing Female Migration and Integration in Belgian Society (FEMIGRIN)

Research project TA/00/30 (Research action TA)

Persons :

Description :

The current research project inquires cross-national and cross-cultural patterns of female migration and integration in Belgian society. Specifically, the team will focus on six regional groups that proved to be very relevant concerning female migration: 1) Latin-Americans, 2) Eastern Europeans, 3) Post Soviets, 4) Chinese, 5) Southeast Asians, and 6) Sub Sahara Africans. Unlike the global feminization of migration and growing attention for migrant women’s problems and opportunities by various important international organizations, like e.g. the UN Population Conference in Cairo, the women’s Conference in Beijing and the UN General Assembly, research on female migration in Europe remains relatively scarce. Certainly in Belgium, little is known on women’s migration and integration experiences. The few available studies remain restricted to just one dimension of integration such as the labour market, or treat a specific mode of entry such as marriage migration. Systematic research in Belgium that explores the mechanisms and dynamics of female migration or women’s integration and social participation patterns is nonexistent.

The project is composed of two main research topics, namely migration and integration. For each topic, two research objectives are put forward and will be eventually linked in a final research objective.

Research objectives concerning “migration”:

(1) Mapping the feminization of the migrant population in Belgium by systematically exploring available databanks. For this objective, we will portrait the degree of feminization according to nationality, mode of entry and juridical status. This objective is put into an international comparative perspective;

(2) Clarifying the specific opportunities, obstacles and mechanisms that relate to female migration - both in the region of origin and in Belgium - and how (migration paths, juridical statuses) the above mentioned six national female migrant groups have come to Belgium. Special attention will be given to the role of (il)legal or semi-legal organizations aimed at facilitating female migration (e.g. marriage bureaus, trafficking).
Research objectives concerning “integration”:

(3) On the basis of existing databanks, setting up socio-economic profiles (localisation, family situation, labour market position, participation in policy programmes etc.) of the six studied female migrant groups. Next to already explored databanks in former research projects, alternative existing but unexplored data will be collected. Considering migrant women’s relative invisibleness in official statistics, this alternative data collection will be necessary;

(4) Understanding and explaining how the integration processes of the six studied female migrant groups – taking into account age, juridical status, social networks, educational level, labour market situation;

(5) Linking the migration/integration and gender perspective in order to make the specific dynamic processes of women’s migration more understandable and predictable.

The project will focus on gender but special attention will be paid to women. In line with the theoretical framework of Grieco & Boyd (1998), the research team adopts a multi-level framework that permits to analyze gender specific migration experiences at three stages of the migration cycle: before, during and after migration. The pre-migration stage consists of the socio-cultural, political and economic country of origin factors that facilitate or inhibit an individual from migration; the intermediate stage between leaving a country of origin and entering a country of destination consists of country of origin and country of destination policies that encourage/ discourage an individual from migrating. Secondly, this stage exists of intermediary organizations and institutions that inhibit or stimulate international migration of men and women differentially. The post-migration stage includes the socio-cultural, economic and political country of destination factors that encourage/ prevent a migrant from integrating in the host society. Since migration experiences of men and women vary all along the migration cycle, it is necessary to incorporate these three stages. At each stage, the research team will focus on gender specific factors that potentially enhance or inhibit female migration. In accordance with the general gender consciousness of the proposed research, special attention will be paid to the interaction between gender and migration, namely the way in which gender relations can facilitate or hamper women's migration/integration, and conversely: the way in which migration processes produce cultural change in gender relations. In this regard, the central role of social networks will become clear.

This research project includes mixed method approaches, using as well quantitative as qualitative research methodologies.

Two research partners (from KU Leuven and ULB) are responsible for the quantitative research part. Mapping the feminization of migration in Belgium (objective 1) and setting up socio-economic profiles of the six studied female migrant groups (objective 3) are two research objectives to which the researchers provide an answer based on existing quantitative datasets. On the one hand, the research team will use various federal regional and community databanks consulted in former research projects. On the other hand, partially new data - in the sense that these data already exist but have never been explored for the purpose of gender sensitive migration research in Belgium - will be collected. Various data sources can complement the picture drawn on the basis of official statistics.

The explanatory opportunities, obstacles and mechanisms regarding migration – both in the region of origin and in Belgium – and integration in Belgium (objectives 2 & 4) will become clear thanks to qualitative research methods. The qualitative research has three major parts: reanalyzing existing qualitative data banks of the above mentioned former studies (UA & ULg), round-tables with privileged witnesses and new qualitative data collection on the six selected female nationality groups.
In addition to the underlying academic interests of this research, the research has first of all policy and societal added values. In order to achieve gender and diversity mainstreaming in policy it is necessary to show the changing gender roles in a context of migration and integration processes. Only by understanding women’s specific migration and integration experiences, will the research team be able to encourage the emancipation and integration of female migrants, and eliminate gender biased perverse effects of migration and integration policy.

Documentation :

Verklarende factoren en dynamieken voor vrouwelijke migratie- en integratieprocessen in België: synthese    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2011 (SP2242)
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Factors and dynamics affecting and explaining female migration and integration in Belgian society: summary    Brussels : Scientific Policy, 2011 (SP2243)
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Facteurs et dynamiques explicatifs des processus de la migration et de l’intégration des femmes en Belgique: synthèse    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2011 (SP2244)
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