Female migrants sold short

Female immigrants make a significant contribution to the Greek economy and society but their integration into the community is strewn with obstacles, according to a study by the Research Center for Gender Equality (KETHI) whose results were made public yesterday. Of some 500,000 female immigrants in Greece, most work as babysitters, cleaners or housekeepers, even though 25 percent are educated to degree level, the KETHI study found. Many of the younger female migrants (in the 18 to 39 age group) would like to start their own business – as many have done in other countries – but barriers to social integration and bureaucracy ensure that most of them remain in low-paid jobs, the study said. This should not be the case as female migrants constitute «significant human capital which must be safeguarded,» according to Nancy Papalexandri, deputy rector of the Athens University of Economics and Business. But bureaucracy – particularly the requirement that immigrants must regularly renew their residence permits – means that they are only legal six months of the year. Another key obstacle to female migrants thriving in the job market is the reluctance of employers to pay their social security contributions. As a result, one in two do jobs for which they are paid under the table, and generally receive low salaries for working long hours without any benefits. In Greece the largest group of female migrants (67 percent) is from Albania, with 16.5 percent hailing from the former Soviet Union, 11.3 percent from Balkan states and 5.1 percent from Poland and the Philippines, according to the study. Of the Polish and Filipino women, most aim to return to their native countries while only two-thirds of the others intend to remain in Greece, the study found. Most female migrants are aged between 30 to 49 and 66 percent have one or two children. The majority have taught themselves Greek either by reading books or watching television, according to Laura Maratou-Alibranti, research director at the Center for Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) who headed the study.