Whenever I’ve been on a plane to or from a country like Nepal or Bangladesh, it’s almost always full of men who work in the Middle-East and send money to their families back home. While waiting at the gate in Dubai airport for a flight to Jakarta recently, I was met with the same plethora of migrant workers but this time there was a noticeable difference – they were mostly women.
According to a World Bank factsheet, 91.5% of Indonesian migrant workers were female in 2001 although this dropped to 82.8% in 2004 (the total number of migrant workers in 2004 was 380,688). During the 1980s, the migration of female workers, particularly in the domestic sector, increased significantly as a consequence of a new government policy promoting labour exports. The top destination countries for female workers are Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan and in 2004 94% of the total registered Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia were female.
According to the Human development Report 2009, remittances to Indonesia amounted to US$ 6.2 billion (in 2007). Given that at least 80% of those abroad are women does that mean that at least US$5 billion is sent home by women?