Harnessing knowledge on the migration of highly skilled women


Expert group meeting co-organized by the International Organization for Migration and the OECD Development Centre

April 3-4, 2014
4th Floor IOM Conference Room, Annex Building
17 Route des Morillons, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

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The migration of women, either independently or to follow a family member, is a growing phenomenon in most countries. In fact, about half of all international migrants are women and, according to OECD data, highly skilled flows are gender balanced. However, and despite their high social and human capital, skilled migrant women remain under-represented among labour migrants. A combination of socioeconomic, institutional and personal factors leads highly skilled women to migrate, not for labour reasons, but rather for marriage, family reunification or for asylum-seeking reasons.

Over the years, the body of knowledge on the participation of highly skilled women to migration flows has increased, including research on topics such as the gender bias of migrant admissions systems, the unequal prioritization of careers within migrant couples and the disproportionate difficulties migrant women face on the labour market. Despite this growing knowledge, information on the links between highly skilled migration, gender equality, integration and development is scattered between several disciplines including those focused on migration, gender, socio-economic integration, human capital and development. The result is a low visibility of research findings for policy-makers, multilateral organizations and governments and a lack of awareness of the potential impact of the migration of highly skilled women on the development of home and host countries.

Objectives of the expert meeting

  • Review evidence on the nature, scope and impact of the migration of highly skilled women on countries of destination, transit and origin;
  • Share good practice in terms of major conceptual frameworks, practical tools and resources to increase the quality and coverage of programs to maximize the potential of highly skilled migrant women;
  • Examine policy monitoring, evaluation and implementation approaches to ensuring successful social and economic integration;
  • Highlight challenges and barriers to the implementation and scale-up of promising/successful approaches to prevent brain waste and deskilling of migrant women;
  • Identify practical solutions, entry points, catalysts and pathways to overcome identified challenges and barriers.

Day 1: Thursday, 3 April

08h30-09h00 Registration

09h00-09h15 Welcome session - Objectives of the Expert Group Meeting

    • Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, Head of the Gender Coordination Unit, IOM
    • David Khoudour, Head of the Migration and Skills Unit, OECD Development Centre

9h15-10h45 Session 1: Setting the scene: number and profiles of highly skilled migrant women

Chair: Frank Laczko, Head of the Migration Research Division, IOM


  • Highly skilled migration within the global picture of women’s migration
    • Natalia Ribas Mateos, A Cornisa University
  • OECD migration data disaggregated by sex and education level
    • Cansin Arslan, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD
  • The migration patterns of highly skilled women
    • Eleonore Kofman, Middlesex University

10h45-11h00 Coffee break

11h15-12h30 Session 2: Determinants and conditions of the migration of highly skilled women

Chair: Christine Verschuur, Gender and Development Programme, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies


  • Gender and the selection of highly skilled migrants
    • Anna Boucher, University of Sydney (via videoconference)
  • South-South migration of women: the role of social institutions
    • Gaëlle Ferrant, Economist, Gender Team, OECD Development Centre
  • Institutionalized inequality and female brain drain
    • Maryam Naghsh Nejad, Institute for Study of Labor (IZA)
  • Dual career households, family considerations and gender roles
    • Yvonne Riaño, Bern University

12h30-14h00 Lunch

14h00-14h30 Session 2: Determinants and conditions of the migration of highly skilled women

14h30-16h15 Session 3: Experiences of highly skilled migrant women in destination countries

Chair: Mariya Aleksynska, Economist, Conditions of Work and Equality Department, ILO


  • Evidence from the European Union
    • Mercedes Fernandez, Centre for Migration Studies, University of Madrid
  • Gender-segregated labour markets
    • Parvati Raghuram, The Open University
  • Brain waste and re-skilling strategies
    • Gillian Creese, University of British Columbia
  • Psychosocial dimensions of deskilling
    • Blandine Mollard, Gender and Migration Officer, IOM

16h15-16h30 Coffee break

16h30-17h45 Session 4: Perspectives of home countries on the migration of highly skilled women

Chair: Jason Gagnon, OECD Development Center


  • Mobility of health professionals
    • Barbara Rijks, Migration Health Programme Coordinator
  • Return of highly skilled migrant women
    • Metka Hercog, Cooperation and Development Center, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Highly skilled women and the transfer of norms
    • Sara Salomone, Université Catholique de Louvain

17h45 End of Day 1

Day 2: Friday, 4 April

09h00-09h30 Wrap-up Day 1

Anelise Gomes de Araujo, International Consultant

Objectives for Day 2

Blandine Mollard, Gender and Migration Officer, IOM

9h30-10h30 Session 5: Knowledge gaps on the migration of highly skilled women

Facilitator: David Khoudour, Head of the Migration and Skills Unit, OECD Development Centre

Elements for discussion

    • What are the knowledge gaps?
    • What issues deserve more attention?
    • New trends in the field of highly skilled migrant women
    • New actors/partnerships to mobilize to improve the knowledge base

10h30-10h45 Coffee break

10h45-12h30 Session 6: Way forward for the governance of highly skilled migration

Facilitator: Sonia Santos de Melo, Adviser, OECD Development Centre


  • Improving labour migration governance
    • Lara White, Senior Labour Migration Specialist, IOM
  • Canada’s experience in addressing gender aspects of highly skilled migration
    • Jennifer Irish, Minister-Counsellor, Head, Humanitarian Affairs and Migration Section, Permanent Mission of Canada
  • What role of employers in promoting innovative practices?
    • Frederick Muia, Senior Adviser, International Organization of Employers

12h30-14h00 Lunch

14h00-15h00 Session 7: Working groups on policy recommendations

Working groups

    • Reducing the impacts on inequality on women’s migration opportunities
    • Fostering positive migration outcomes for highly skilled migrant women at destination
    • Maximizing the development impacts for countries of origin

15h00-15h15 Coffee break

15h15-16h15 Debriefing from working groups’ rapporteurs

Facilitator Blandine Mollard, Gender and Migration Officer, IOM

16h15-17h00 Closing session: What next?

  • Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, Head of the Gender Coordination Unit, IOM
  • David Khoudour, Head of the Migration and Skills Unit, OECD Development Centre





Countries list

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bermuda
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cape Verde
  • Cayman Islands
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China (People’s Republic of)
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • European Union
  • Faeroe Islands
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guernsey
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong, China
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jersey
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macao (China)
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mayotte
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia (Federated States of)
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Montserrat
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Niue
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Palestinian Administered Areas
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Helena
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Serbia and Montenegro (pre-June 2006)
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • United States Virgin Islands
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Virgin Islands (UK)
  • Wallis and Futuna Islands
  • Western Sahara
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe