Migrant Women and the Economy

Date Posted: Tuesday 5th May 2020

Covid- 19 has exposed just how dependent our economy is on migrant workers. Our NHS, social care services, agriculture, food production and distribution are on the labour of migrant workers. Migrant women, in particular, are disproportionately represented in ‘key worker’ occupations, working in roles that put their own lives at risk to deliver crucial care. At the same time migrant women are being failed by the immigration system that continues to see their vital work as ‘low skilled’.

The report Migrant Women and the Economy looks at the distinct impact the immigration system is having on migrant women, which is further exacerbated by Covid- 19.

Access the full report here
Access the Executive Summary here
You can watch the launch of our report here. Hear powerful accounts from front line organisations on the work they are doing to protect Migrant women from the impact of Covid- 19. 

Migrant Women and Covid- 19

  • Most migrant women have no recourse to public funds, meaning that if they lose their jobs, hours or home they cannot claim benefits like Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or get homelessness support from their local authorities.
  • Migrant victims/survivors of abuse who have no recourse to public funds cannot access women’s refuges, as refuges are dependent on Housing Benefit for their bricks and mortar funding.
  • Despite being overrepresented in frontline work like care, migrant women are paying for the NHS twice through the Immigration Health Surcharge and their taxes.
  • Undocumented migrants may fear seeking treatment from the NHS due to links with immigration enforcement and fear of charging.
  • Migrant women in detention centres are at high risk of contracting the virus without adequate staff, space for social distancing or healthcare.

Economic Challenges: Women and the Immigration System

  • Financial cost of Visas- Women earn less so financially it is harder to secure their right to stay and to bring their loved ones under family visa rules.
  • Work and pay- Many migrant women work in key but low-paid and low-skilled sectors like cleaning, domestic work social care and hospitality. Migrants are 24% of social care workforce.
  • No recourse to public funds- NRPF plus labour market barriers and no access to full free childcare result in many migrant women depending on partners for income.
  • Restricted access to public services- Migrant women have no access to social housing or homelessness support, limited access to free childcare hours, and undocumented women must pay thousands of pounds for maternity care.
  • VAWG and Immigration- The Destitution Domestic Violence Concession gives migrant women a lifeline towards abuse-free lives and some income support to rebuild their lives, but it’s restricted to women on spouse visas. Women on other types of visas who become destitute receive little to no support from the government. Immigration status is used by abusers as a tool of coercion and control; threats of reporting to Home Office used to coerce migrant women.


  • The Government must assess the impact immigration policies have on equality. This means looking at the different economic position of women and men and the specific challenges different groups of women face and how policies will help address this and promote equality.
  • Review the ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy. ‘No recourse to public funds’ means that a person is unable to access welfare benefits as well as public housing. It indirectly discriminates against migrant women who are more likely to rely on these services due to caring responsibilities and low pay.
  • Extend DDVC (Destitution Domestic Violence Concession) to all migrant women victims of VAWG. The DDV concession should be extended to migrant women with insecure immigration status to protect and support all women who are victims of violence.

This is a joint report by Women’s Budget Group and Coventry Women’s Partnership.