Health issues affecting female internal migrant workers: A systematic review

Author/s: Upul Senarath, Kolitha Wickramage, Sharika Peiris
Language: English
Publication Type: Scientific Report (Journal)(External)

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  • Background: Economic contribution by internal migrant workers, in particular the workers in Export Processing Zones (EPZ) in Sri Lanka, is well recognized, yet the social and health consequences are unknown.
  • Objective: To systematically review the health issues affecting female internal migrant workers in EPZ in Sri Lanka
  • Methods: A literature review was conducted through electronic databases and hand searches of grey literature. Studies eligible for inclusion were those reported health or social issues among females employed in an industry within EPZ from 1978 to 2012. Studies were selected using a defined checklist for their methodological quality and in relation to measurement of health status.
  • Results: Of the 550 studies identified, eight publications were included for the review. The respondents were relatively young and educated females, and the large majority have migrated predominantly from rural areas to work in garment factories located in urban centers. These studies described health issues related to nutrition, reproductive health, mental health, musculo-skeletal disorders and gender issues. The review identified high prevalence of nutritional deficiencies such as underweight and anaemia; risky sexual behavior; and psychological disorders among female factory workers.
  • Migrant workers had higher prevalence of anaemia and psychological depression than their nonmigrant counterparts. As a positive effect, women experienced empowerment through gaining income and new knowledge.
  • Conclusions: Female migrant workers generally tend to exhibit some disadvantage due to health risks, and are more likely to be subject to ill-health than non-migrants. More rigorous research is needed to determine true health impacts within this population.
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