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International labour migration: trends, issues, impact and responses


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Title: International labour migration: trends, issues, impact and responses

International labour migration trends, issues,
impact and responses
  • Presentation Trade Union Training on Migrant
    Workers Rights Promotion of Social Protection,
    ILO-ACTRAV Workshop, 20-24 August 2007,
    Jakarta (1400-1530)
  • By
  • Piyasiri WickramasekaraSenior Migration
    SpecialistInternational Labour Office
  • Geneva
  • Email
  • ILO Migration programme website

Structure of the presentation
  • Key messages
  • Terminology
  • Globalization and migration trends
  • Selected issues
  • Migration and development
  • Protection of migrant workers
  • Irregular migration
  • Way forward

Key Messages
  • Migration is not a problem, but a phenomenon as
    old as history.
  • It is likely to increase in the future, not
    decrease. The issue is how to regulate or govern
    - and not how to stop migration.
  • Globalization has made least progress in relation
    to cross border mobility of people and labour.
  • ILO and the international community now see
    migration as a positive factor benefiting both
    source and destination countries and migrant
    workers and their families.
  • Respect for migrant rights is essential for
    ensuring and sharing benefits from migration.
  • The world need more and better migration policies
    not more and better controls and policing.

Let us get the terms right!
  • ILO dictum Labour is a not a commodity thus,
    labour exports-imports or exporting/importing
    inappropriate. Source and destination countries
  • Stop labelling migrants
  • Economic migrants labour migrants illegal
  • Labour migration- migrant workers, migrant labour
    correct terms.
  • Every worker has a skill- there are no unskilled
    workers. Low skilled or semi skilled.
  • Irregular migration and migrant workers in
    irregular status are the correct terms not
    illegal, clandestine, undocumented.
  • Combating, fighting irregular /illegal migration
    avoid military jargon

International Migrants
Year Migrants (Millions) World Population (Billions) Migrant share of population Women of total migrants
1965 75 3.3 2.3 47.1
1975 85 4.1 2.1 47.4
1985 105 4.8 2.2 47.2
1990 120 5.3 2.3 49.0
1995 164 5.7 2.9 49.3
2000 175 6.0 2.9 49.7
2005 191 6.5 3.0 49.6
Persons outside their country of birth or
citizenship. Source UN Population Division
International migration is not only from poor to
rich countries
International migration is a labour market and
decent work issue
  • Total migrants (population resident outside their
    countries of origin) in 2005 191 million 3 per
    cent of global population. (UN Population
  • Total number of migrant workers (according to ILO
    estimates) about 90-95 million.
  • Total refugees in 2005 13.5 million (10.8 in
    South (7.8mn in Asia 3mn in Africa 2.7mn in
    developed countries)
  • Asylum seekers about one million
  • About 90 are migrant workers their families.
    (roughly 170 million)
  • Thus international migration is not
    asylum/refugee issue or security issue.

Global migration Driving forces
  • Global Commission on International Migration 3
    Ds Development, Demography and Democracy
  • Demographic trends
  • Population decline in developed countries
  • Population ageing
  • Disparities and gaps across countries
  • Decent work deficits employment, earnings, wages
  • Human security Armed conflict and war
  • Human rights
  • Globalization
  • Social networks family unification.

Source Rainer Münz
From Rainer Münz
Migration and globalization
  • Globalization has diverse impact.
  • migration-inducing
  • Easier communication and cheaper travel
  • High tech and specialized skills demanded
  • Demand for low skilled and cheap labour
  • Migration pressures increased due to widening
    gaps migration-reducing
  • Trade and investment FDI flows create jobs in
    countries of origin
  • Virtual mobility reduces the need for migration.
  • But international mobility of labour seriously
  • Immigration policies in receiving countries
  • Right to leave any country, and the right to
    return home country fundamental human rights, but
    right of entry or admission, stay or work still
    the sovereign right of individual states.

Indicators of globalization (based on Mauro Guillens indicators) 1980 2004
Exports value as of world GDP 38.8 48.8 (2003)
FDI as of world GDP 6.7 21.7
Cross border loan stock as of world GDP 13.9 34.2
Internet users- of world population 13.9
Migrants as of world population 2.2 2.9 (2005)
Problem areas in current global migration
  • Treatment protection of migrant workers
  • Growth of irregular migration
  • Brain drain from developing countries,
    especially health care drain.
  • Poor integration of migrants in host societies
  • Poor governance of migration
  • Lack of a multilateral framework
  • most focus on control and prevention of migration
    not management.

Migration and development
  • Increased emphasis on migration-development
  • Migration benefits all- World Bank simulation
    study 2006 (Global Economic Prospects 2006). 356
    bil gain. Much more than from trade
  • Remittances
  • official flows of 206 bil. In 2006 with
    informal - 300 bil. annually more than double
  • Return migration and circulation
  • Skills, savings social capital investments
  • Mobilising transnational communities
  • Investments (overseas Chinese)
  • Transfer of skills and technology
  • Positive changes in policies Indian economic
  • Migration can help but not solve problem of
    decent work deficits and lack of development.

Global income gains from 3 increase in migration
between 2001-2025 (Source World Bank GEP 2006)
Category US dollars (Billion)
Natives in high-income countries 139
Old migrants in high-income countries -88
Natives in developing countries 143
New migrants 162
Total 356
Remittances the new Development Mantra
  • World Bank important and stable source of
    development finance
  • But remittances are private transfers not a
    substitute for ODA (Official development
    assistance) or FDI (foreign direct investment)
  • Current concerns
  • High transfer fees and how to reduce them
  • Maximising development impact of remittances

Financial flows to developing countries (in
billion dollars)
Item 1995 2006e
Remittances (recorded) 58 193
Official Development Assistance (ODA) 59 104
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) 107 325
Private debt portfolio equity 126 318
Source World Bank
Dilip Ratha, World Bank
Brain drain - highlights
  • In 2000 77 countries had 10 or more of the
    skilled work force overseas 28 had 30 and
  • Migration policies increasingly selective favour
    skilled at expense of low skilled (Australia,
    Canada, Europe).
  • Brain waste lack of qualification recognition

Skilled and low skilled workers
  • The demand for migrant workers cuts across all
    skill categories (EU Policy Plan on economic
  • Global Commission on international migration
    both are essential workers.
  • Current policy favours skilled at the expense of
    low skilled workers leading to
  • Serious brain drain for developing countries
  • Channelling a substantial number to irregular
  • Prevents development benefits to the poor

Challenges in health worker migration
  • Uneven distribution quality of health services
    declining when needs are increasing HIV-AIDS
    crisis 57 countries with critical shortages
  • Countries with the lowest relative need have the
    highest numbers of health workers WHO
  • Difficulty of achieving millennium development
  • Countries that are active supporters of the
    health and education objectives included in the
    UNs Millennium Development Goals are
    nevertheless recruiting personnel from hospitals
    and schools in low-income countries that are
    unable to offer basic health and education
    services to their own citizens. GCIM
  • Fatal flows compared to other movements health
    workers save lives!
  • Fiscal burden on source countries in losing
    investments in human resources.
  • Health workers in destination countries
    protection problems.
  • Few feedback effects a vicious circle?

Source WHO
Irregular migration
  • Terms illegal, clandestine, undocumented,
    irregular. Irregular migration and migrant
    workers in irregular status preferred terms by
    international community.
  • Dimensions 15-20 globally
  • Causes
  • Limited legal channels
  • Migration barriers
  • Demand side Undeclared and underground work in
    receiving countries
  • Political factors Breakup of USSR- borders
    cross people
  • Problems protection, management, security,
    unfair competition.
  • Responses Controls sanctions amnesties and
    regularisations return policy awareness
    creation on risks, etc.
  • Workers in irregular status also have rights UN
    Convention and ILO C.143 accrued wages and
    social security. Basic human rights return in
    conditions of dignity.

Irregular migration controls
  • Prof. Cornelius Wayne the fortified US-Mexican
    border during nine years of operation has been
    ten times deadlier to migrants (with 2750
    reported deaths crossing the border) than the
    Berlin Wall was to East Germans during 28 years
    (with only 239 deaths crossing the wall). Main
    consequences of 10 years of tighter US border
    control have been redistribution of illegal
    entries increased cost of illegal entry more
    permanent settlement in U.S higher mortality
    among illegal entrants and increase in
    anti-immigrant vigilante activity.
  • Batistella and Asis ..experience shows that
    this approach keeping our borders tightly
    guarderd has not succeeded in keeping all
    unwanted persons out. It does succeed in
    rendering many unauthorized persons who form
    the backbone in some sectors without protection
    from insecurity and abuse
  • Stepehn Castles on European controls
  • Building walls (between the USA and Mexico) and
    increasing naval patrols (between the EU and
    Africa) increases the death rate and the
    smugglers profits, but does not solve the

  • The vast majority of migrants are industrious,
    courageous, and determined. They dont want a
    free ride. They want a fair opportunity. They are
    not criminals or terrorists. They are
    law-abiding. They dont want to live apart. They
    want to integrate, while retaining their
    identity. .
  • United Nations (former) Secretary-General Kofi
    Annan's Address to the European Parliament upon
    receipt of the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom
    of Thought, Brussels, 29 January 2004.

ILO approach to labour migration
  • As a labour market and decent work issue work
    with labour ministries
  • Migration as a positive factor in development
  • Tripartite approach to labour migration
  • Rights based approach pioneered international
    instruments Multilateral framework on labour
    migration 2006.
  • International cooperation

Migrant specific International Instruments
  • ILO Conventions
  • the Migration for Employment Convention
    (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) 45 ratifications
  • the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions)
    Convention, 1975 (No. 143) 21 ratifications
  • United Nations
  • International Convention on the Protection of the
    Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of
    their families, 1990 36 ratifications. (in
    force since mid-2003)
  • ILO multilateral framework on labour migration
  • non-binding- principles, guidelines and best

Migrant Stock in Asia 2005
Total (million) Female (mln) female
Asia 48.1 20.8 43.3
Eastern Asia 6.5 3.5 53.5
South Asia (with Iran) 13.2 5.9 44.5
South-east Asia 5.7 2.8 48.6
Western Asia (Gulf and ME) 22.7 8.7 38.4
Main features of Asian labour migration
  • Temporary labour migration regime
  • Increasingly intra-Asian migration
  • Feminisation
  • Concentration of low skilled workers
  • Brain drain
  • High share of irregular migration Thailand,
    Malaysia inflows.
  • Highly commercialised private recruitment
    industry leading to governance concerns.

ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion
of the Rights of Migrant Workers - Significance
  • Emphasis on protection and promotion of rights
    accords well with MLF
  • Obligations on sending states, receiving states
    and ASEAN
  • Recognises the contributions of migrant workers
    to the society and economy of both receiving
    states and sending states
  • Intensify efforts to protect the fundamental
    human rights, promote the welfare and uphold
    human dignity of migrant workers
  • ASEAN Promote decent, humane, productive,
    dignified and remunerative employment for migrant
  • develop an ASEAN instrument on the protection and
    promotion of the rights of migrant workers. MLF
    can be a model.

Towards a sustainable labour migration regime
  • ILO Plan of Action multilateral framework
    provide useful guidelines in all these areas.
  • Criteria for a credible labour migration policy
  • Consistent with protection of rights of migrant
    workers in line with international instruments.
  • Based on recognition of mutual benefits,.
  • In line with labour market needs with building of
    public consensus on need for migrant workers.
  • Based on circulation and mobility-friendly
    migration policies.
  • Based on bilateral, regional and international
  • According greater role for social partners
    civil society.
  • Based on decent work for migrant workers.
  • Facilitates migration by choice, not by need.