15 May 2024

Asylum strengthens women's position in the family and society


Women who are granted asylum in Denmark after family reunification are better financially integrated, have a lower risk of becoming victims of violence – and are more likely to divorce. This is according to a new study from the Department of Economics.

Woman working at a computer
The family reunified women who are subsequently granted asylum are more likely to find work. Photo: UN Women

In most countries, it is primarily men who apply for and are granted asylum, while women are reunited with the men who have been granted asylum. This means that immigrant women are at a disadvantage in the host country because their residence permit is dependent on their partner. If the couple divorces or the man dies, the woman will lose her residence permit.

‘This means that a woman who has fled exactly the same circumstances as her partner has a higher risk of being sent back to the country of origin, which the authorities have deemed so unsafe that the women's husbands have been able to obtain asylum. This increased risk can have a negative impact on the integration of women,’ says Linea Hasager, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen.

In a new study, she has investigated the effect of asylum rights for women using a staggered difference-in-differences design. Specifically, she compared women who had their asylum applications approved quickly with women who were not granted asylum until several quarters after arriving in the host country.

Less violence, more work

The results of the study are remarkable in several ways.

‘We can see that the divorce rate increases by 3 percentage points after asylum is recognised. The risk of becoming a victim of violence decreases by 0.8 percentage points. In terms of numbers, this corresponds to all the reunited women who are victims of domestic violence,’ emphasises Linea Hasager and continues:

‘Women who have been granted asylum are also more likely to work. The employment rate increases by 53 per cent compared to the employment rate of comparable family reunified women.’

The women's working hours and income also increase after being granted asylum – on average by 14 hours and DKK 1,900 per quarter.

‘This is more than a doubling of working hours and earnings compared to the period before asylum. Interestingly, both the woman's attachment to the labour market and risk of violence are significantly affected by being granted asylum, regardless of whether the woman remains married or not,’ adds Linea Hasager.

It's all about gender equality

An obvious explanation for the study's results is that the woman's general position within the household is enhanced when her asylum status is the same as the man's.

‘An independent asylum status can reduce the risk of returning to the country of origin and thus increases the woman's bargaining power in the family,’ Linea Hasager mentions.

A lower risk of returning to the country of origin can also be beneficial for employers because the expected value of finding a job increases for both the job seeker and the employer.

‘Overall, the study provides a long-awaited explanation for why women from countries that send refugees lag behind their male counterparts in economic integration,’ Linea Hasager emphasises and elaborates:

‘Furthermore, my study shows that current practices put women at risk of becoming victims of violence and that they can lock some reunited women into unwanted marriages.’

To her knowledge, the study provides the first evidence on the impact of refugee status versus family reunification status.

‘The effects of the different types of residence permits are important for policy makers interested in designing immigration policies that can improve the integration of immigrant women,’ says Linea Hasager.

Whether the results of this study are valid for other groups of immigrants is an open question, she says.

‘But some of the problems associated with family reunification may also affect women who have been reunited with non-refugee immigrants or natives,’ she suggests.

The study, entitled ‘Does granting refugee status to family-reunified women improve their integration?’, is published in the Journal of Public Economics. It can be read here


Linea Hasager
Assistant Professor
Department of Economics
Mail: tlh@econ.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 33 45 97

Simon Knokgaard Halskov
Press and communication advisor
Faculty of Social Sciences
Mail: sih@samf.ku.dk 
Mobile: +45 93 56 53 29


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