Challenges Faced by Women Migrant Workers


Kumar Kaustubh Mani, a 5th-Year B.A LL.B, Lovely Professional University Student has written this Article explaining”Challenges Faced by Women Migrant Workers”


Women migrant workers are individuals who migrate within their home countries or from their home countries to work in other countries, often for economic reasons. They are a critical part of the labor force, and their contributions to various industries and economies are invaluable. However, they often face numerous challenges, including discrimination, exploitation, and abuse. Women migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to such challenges due to their gender, nationality, and migrant status.

Women migrant workers often leave their homes and families behind to seek better opportunities. They work in a variety of industries, including domestic work, agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare. They also work as caregivers, nurses, and other types of service providers. Despite their contributions to various economies, women migrant workers often face numerous challenges.

It is essential to recognize the contributions of women migrant workers and take steps to protect their rights and improve their working conditions. This can include measures such as providing access to education and training programs, enforcing labor laws, and promoting gender equality. By addressing the challenges faced by women migrant workers, we can create a more just and equitable world for all.

Under Article 19[1] of the Indian Constitution, citizens have the fundamental right to move freely throughout the country and to live and work in any location they choose. However, poverty, unemployment, and a sense of helplessness often force people to leave their homes and work in difficult conditions in unfamiliar places.

According to the National Commission on Self-Employed Women in 1988, approximately 94% of all women workers in India are employed in the informal, unorganized sector, while only 6% work in the formal, organized sector.


  • Better job opportunities: People may migrate to seek better job opportunities, higher wages, and better working conditions.
  • Unemployment: In some cases, people may migrate because of unemployment or lack of job opportunities in their home country.
  • Skill shortages: Countries may have a shortage of skilled workers in certain industries, leading to increased migration of workers with the required skills.
  • Education and training: People may migrate to pursue education or training that will enhance their career prospects.
  • Globalization: Globalization has led to increased demand for workers who can operate in a global economy, leading to increased migration of workers with cross-cultural skills.
  • Seasonal work: Some industries require seasonal workers, leading to the migration of workers who are willing to work for short periods of time.
  • Family reunification: People may migrate to join family members who have already migrated for work.
  • Entrepreneurship: Some people may migrate to start their own businesses or to invest in a new venture in another country.
  • Cultural exchange: People may migrate for work to experience a new culture and gain exposure to different ways of working.
  • Economic growth: Countries with strong economic growth may attract migrant workers seeking to benefit from increased economic opportunities


Internal migration

This type of migration involves the movement of people within a country, from one region to another. Examples include rural-urban migration, where people move from rural areas to cities in search of better economic opportunities.

International migration

This type of migration involves the movement of people from one country to another. It can be further divided into two categories: immigration (people moving into a country) and emigration (people moving out of a country).

Forced migration

Factors such as war, persecution, or natural disasters can force people to leave their homes, leading to this type of migration. Examples include refugees and internally displaced persons.

Voluntary migration

This type of migration occurs when people choose to move for various reasons, such as better economic opportunities, education, or reuniting with family members.

Seasonal migration

This type of migration occurs when people move to another location for a particular season or period, often for work purposes. Examples include agricultural workers who move to different regions to harvest crops.


This type of migration involves traveling between a place of residence and a place of work or study on a regular basis. The act of returning to their place of residence at the end of the day means that it is not considered permanent migration.


Pre Independence Scenario

One can trace the long and complex history of the labour movement in India back to the colonial period. During British rule, the working conditions of Indian labourers were extremely poor, and they were subject to low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions. In response to this, labour unions began to form in the early 20th century to demand better working conditions, fair wages, and the right to organize.

The Indian labour movement gained momentum during the independence movement, with leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru advocating for workers’ rights. The Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC) was formed in 1947, and became the largest trade union organization in the country. The government also passed the Industrial Disputes Act in 1947, which provided for the resolution of industrial disputes and the regulation of labour relations.

Post Independence Scenario

In the post-independence period, the government introduced a number of labour laws to protect workers’ rights and promote social justice. These laws included the Factories Act, the Minimum Wages Act, the Employees’ State Insurance Act, and the Employees’ Provident Fund Act. These laws were designed to ensure that workers were paid fair wages, provided with safe working conditions, and given access to social security benefits.

In the 1990s, India began to liberalize its economy and move towards a market-based system. This led to a shift in labour policies, with the government introducing a number of reforms aimed at making it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers. This included amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, which made it easier for employers to lay off workers and close down factories.

Today, the Indian labour movement continues to fight for workers’ rights, with issues such as minimum wages, job security, and social security benefits remaining a major concern. The government has introduced a number of new labour laws in recent years, including the Code on Wages, the Code on Social Security, and the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, aimed at streamlining and modernizing the country’s labour laws. However, these laws have been criticized by some labour unions for diluting workers’ rights and making it easier for employers to exploit them.


According to the Indian Census, individuals who can read and write any Indian language with comprehension are considered literate. In 1991, the literacy rate among the total population was 52.7% for males and 32.2% for females, compared to 46.9% for males and 24.8% for females in 1981. The literacy rate among migrants in 1991 was slightly lower at 39.8%, with 66.7% for males and 29.5% for females. However, since data on migrant literacy rates were not available in 1981, it is impossible to compare changes in migrant literacy rates to those of the total population over time.


The lockdown caused a severe impact on the economy worldwide with the shutdown of businesses, shops, and factories. This resulted in a loss of jobs and salary cuts for millions of people, particularly for migrant workers who are mostly daily wage earners. The government did not provide any social support mechanism, leaving them with no source of income. Migrant workers often come to cities in search of better-paying jobs, but due to their lack of skills and education, they end up in low-wage, informal employment. Poverty traps them in this cycle, as they cannot afford education or gain skills for formal and secure jobs. Even before the pandemic, the living conditions of migrant workers were deplorable, and the urban poverty level had been strained without any improvement in their lifestyle.

During the COVID-19 crisis, there was a lack of consideration from both central and state authorities regarding the return of thousands of migrants as an emergency situation. During a global health crisis, the migrants were forced to walk for miles, putting their lives at risk. Even after the relaxation of lockdown rules, the movement of cargo was given priority over the movement of people, which resulted in overcrowding at railway stations and bus terminals. This led to a violation of safety measures such as social distancing, which was mandated by the government. The lack of safe shelter left migrant workers from underprivileged backgrounds struggling to fend for themselves. The situation was made worse by the lack of coordination between central and state governments and the ineffective implementation of existing policies and orders.


There have been many legal cases related to the rights of women migrant workers around the world. Here are some notable examples:

Gaurav Jain v. Union of India[7]

This case dealt with the issue of the trafficking of women and children, particularly from the northeastern states of India. The Supreme Court directed the government to take several measures to prevent trafficking, including setting up special police units and establishing shelters for victims.

National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India [8](2014)

This landmark case dealt with the rights of transgender individuals in India, including their right to self-identification and equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court stated that it is necessary to recognize transgender individuals as a “third gender” and to grant them legal recognition and protection.

Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[9]

This case dealt with sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Supreme Court held that sexual harassment was a violation of women’s fundamental rights under the Constitution of India, and laid down guidelines for preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Laxmi Mandal v. Deen Dayal Harinagar Hospital[10]

This case dealt with the issue of discrimination against women from marginalized communities, particularly in accessing healthcare services. A group of women from a lower-caste community brought the case, alleging that they had been denied access to healthcare services at a government hospital. The Supreme Court ruled that this was a violation of the women’s fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination under the Constitution, and ordered the hospital to provide the women with the necessary medical treatment.

Sunita Devi v. State of Bihar[11]

This case dealt with the issue of violence against women migrants. The Supreme Court directed the government to take measures to protect the rights of women migrant workers, including ensuring access to basic amenities such as healthcare and education


The Migration of women laborers brings its own unique set of issues, which may differ from those faced by male migrants or women who do not work as laborers. Some of the key issues of migration of women laborers include:

  • Gender-based discrimination: Women laborers may face discrimination and exploitation on the basis of their gender, including unequal pay, poor working conditions, and sexual harassment or assault.
  • Lack of legal protections: Women laborers may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse due to their legal status or lack of access to legal protections, especially if they are undocumented migrants.
  • Family separation: Women laborers may be separated from their families and support networks for extended periods of time, which can have a significant impact on their mental health and well-being.
  • Limited access to healthcare: Women laborers may have limited access to healthcare, especially if they are working in remote or rural areas, or if they lack legal status.
  • Vulnerability to trafficking: Women laborers may be vulnerable to human trafficking and forced labor, especially if they are recruited through fraudulent or deceptive practices.
  • Impact on children and families: The migration of women laborers can have a significant impact on their children and families, including disruptions to education and social support networks.

Overall, the migration of women laborers requires careful attention to the unique needs and vulnerabilities of this group, and the development of policies and programs that address their specific concerns and support their safety, well-being, and economic empowerment.


Migration can be a complex and challenging process, both for the individuals who are migrating and for the countries and communities that they are moving to. Some of the key challenges of migration include:

  • Cultural and language barriers: Migrants may struggle to adapt to a new culture and language, which can make it difficult for them to access basic services and social opportunities.
  • Economic challenges: Migrants may face economic challenges such as difficulty finding work, low wages, and lack of access to affordable housing and healthcare.
  • Discrimination and xenophobia: Migrants may face discrimination and xenophobia in their new communities, which can make it difficult for them to feel welcome and to fully integrate into society.
  • Social isolation: Migrants may experience social isolation and loneliness, especially if they do not have family or friends in their new country.
  • Legal and administrative hurdles: Migrants may face legal and administrative hurdles such as obtaining visas, navigating complex immigration systems, and dealing with bureaucracy.
  • Trauma and psychological distress: Experiencing trauma and psychological distress may be a result for migrants who leave their home country, are separated from family and loved ones, and face violence or persecution.


Women migrant workers often face unique challenges and risks, including exploitation, discrimination, and abuse. To address these issues, many countries have developed laws and policies that specifically address the rights and protections of women migrant workers.

Here are some examples of laws and policies related to women migrant workers:

  • Anti-Discrimination Laws: Many countries have laws that prohibit discrimination against women in the workplace. These laws may also apply to migrant workers, including women.
  • Labor Laws Labor laws establish minimum standards for working conditions, including wages, working hours, and safety. These laws may also apply to migrant workers, including women.
  • International Conventions: International conventions, such as the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers, provide guidelines for protecting the rights of migrant workers, including women.
  • Bilateral Agreements: Some countries have established bilateral agreements to protect the rights of migrant workers, including women. These agreements may address issues such as working conditions, social security, and legal protections.
  • Gender-Specific Policies: Some countries have developed gender-specific policies to address the unique needs and risks faced by women migrant workers. These policies may include provisions for childcare, health care, and protection from violence and abuse.


  • Provide access to legal services: Women migrants often face legal challenges such as immigration status, family reunification, and employment rights. Governments and NGOs should provide legal services to ensure that women migrants are aware of their legal rights and can access the necessary support.
  • Promote gender equality: Women migrants are often subject to discrimination and exploitation due to their gender. It’s important to promote gender equality through policies and programs that support women’s rights and empower women migrants.
  • Address language barriers: Language barriers can be a significant challenge for women migrants, making it difficult for them to access information and services. Governments and NGOs should provide language classes and translation services to help women migrants communicate and integrate into their new communities.
  • Provide access to affordable housing: Women migrants often struggle to find affordable and safe housing. Governments and organizations should provide affordable housing options for women migrants, particularly those with low incomes or who are vulnerable to homelessness.
  • Support economic empowerment: Women migrants often face economic challenges, including limited job opportunities and lower wages. Governments and organizations should support women migrants’ economic empowerment by providing job training, entrepreneurship programs, and other resources to help women migrants build their skills and start their own businesses


Women migrant laborers face unique challenges and vulnerabilities due to their gender, immigration status, and employment status. Many women migrate in search of better economic opportunities and to support their families, but often face exploitation, discrimination, and abuse in the workplace and beyond.

Women migrant laborers often work in low-paying, low-skilled jobs, such as domestic work, agriculture, and manufacturing, and are more likely to be employed in informal and precarious work arrangements. They may face long hours, low wages, and dangerous working conditions, as well as limited access to healthcare, social services, and legal protections.

Moreover, women migrant laborers may also face gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and assault, and may have limited recourse to justice due to their precarious legal status and fear of retaliation.

Efforts to address the challenges faced by women migrant laborers should take into account the intersectional nature of their experiences and should include measures to promote their economic empowerment, protect their rights and dignity, and provide them with access to social services and legal protections. These efforts should also address the root causes of migration and work to create opportunities for women in their countries of origin.

For a Critical Analysis of Women’s Human Rights in India: Click Here


[1] Article 15 available at Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc. (Last visited on March 28 2023)

[2] Reason of Migration Worker available at (last visited on 30 March 2023)

[3] Types of Migration available at (Last visited on 30 March 2023)

[4] Evolution of labour movement available at (Last visited on 30 March 2023)

[5] Education level available at last visited on 30 March 2023)

[6] Difficulties faced by Migrant workers available at—ed_protect/—protrav/—migrant/documents/publication/wcms_821985.pdf  (last visited on 30 March 2023)

[7] Gaurav Jain v. Union of India with writ petition (crl.) nos. 745-54 of 1950

[8] National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India writ petition (civil) no.400 of 2012

[9] Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241

[10] Laxmi Mandal v. Deen Dayal Harinagar Hospital W.P.(C) 8853/2008

[11] Sunita Devi v. State of Bihar case no.: appeal (crl.)  1424 of 2004

[12] Law related to women migrants available at–en/index.htm (last visited on 28 March 2023)


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