Project: Gendered Dynamics of International Labour Migration


This study is part of a larger multi-country research project ‘Gendered Dynamics of International Labour Migration’ involving four countries Lebanon, Pakistan Turkey and KRI with the aim of highlighting the diversity of migrants in relation to sectors of employment, educational and skill levels and countries of origin. There is currently little research on gendered migration in KRI except for displaced and refugee women.

Key Findings

  • The key drivers of migration: Economic failure in the home country; lack of opportunities; low income; support for family through remittances, especially children left behind; discriminatory practices and family-harassment, prevented from working; getting overseas experience and pursuing career opportunities; marriage; political conflict and instability (for refugees from Iran and Syria).
  • Recruitment agencies are central to the process. Recruitment agencies facilitate the global migration of service workers (domestic and care, hospitality, construction) both in countries of origin and destination. In these sectors, migrants paid agencies in their home countries. In KRI they are licensed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs with responsibilities for recruitment training, residence, health and safety, and departure.
  • A number of the women interviewed would recommend the KRI as a safe place and better treatment than in GCC countries. Most were satisfied with their salaries and were able to send back remittances to support families. However, many had no health insurance.
  • Some of the lower skilled women were faced with poor working conditions, and racist attitudes. Some employers forced the women to work long hours without days off, had racist attitudes towards them and in some instances prevented them from practising their religion.
  • There is a lack of any policy to protect foreign workers in KRI, even though some regulations exist for foreign workers. The workers often did not know their rights under their contracts as they were issued in Arabic and Kurdish.
  • The skilled women were generally happy with their working conditions and were aware of their rights if problems arose.
  • Sexual harassment in workplaces and public urban spaces. Sexual harassment was experienced at work, on transport and in public spaces particularly in the evening, although some felt safe in the city at night.
  • Cultural challenges and perceptions by locals. Language, religion, nationality, race and gender might be different from the employers or the people they are interacting with. Therefore, their different world views and perspectives affect the social interactions and relationships and contibrute to an identity crisis for the women who consider themselves as members of the wider Kurdish community.


  • Explore fully the diversity of gendered labour migration in KRI by migrants and refugees from neighbouring countries.
  • Have more regular government supervision of agencies and employers, making the legislation for recruitment agencies a reality.
  • Update and improve the instruction and regulations of 2015 by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
  • Extend work rights and social protection (work insurance, medical services) to household workers.
  • Include migrants workers in the Kurdistan Region’s Social Protection Policy such as work insurance and medical services.
  • Further include and activate Labour Unions in issues related to women domestic workers.

You can read a summary of the full report here.