New UN study calls for better protection, benefits for migrant workers

1 April 2010 – A new study by the United Nations labour agency calls for adopting a “rights-based approach” to provide better protection for the world’s 105 million migrant workers, who continue to experience challenges such as low wages and unsafe working conditions.

The study – “International Labour Migration: A rights-based approach” – examines trends in global migration, its impacts on origin and destination countries, and working conditions experienced by migrant workers.

“It brings out the positive contributions made by migrant workers to both their countries of employment and origin,” the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted in a news release.

“However, it also highlights the decent work and protection deficits they still experience today, including low wages, non-payment of wages, unsafe working environments, a virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom of association and workers’ rights, discrimination and xenophobia.”

According to Ibrahim Awad, chief of the ILO’s International Migration Branch, international migration is primarily a labour market, employment and decent work issue, and less a security and asylum-seeker/refugee issue.

“The challenge is to govern migration in such a way that it can serve as a force for growth and prosperity in both origin and destination countries, while protecting and benefiting migrant workers themselves,” he stated.

The study also found that international migrants estimated at 214 million in 2010 represent only three per cent of the global population; that women make up almost 50 per cent of international migrants; migrant workers (economically active among total migrant population) are about 105 million in 2010; and that migrant workers and their families account for about 90 per cent of total international migrants.

As most migration is in search of decent work, the study recommended that national and global policies provide greater legal opportunities for labour mobility, and that policies be based on recognition of mutual benefits to both origin and destination countries.

It also pointed out that protection of migrant rights is central to realizing development benefits of migration for all parties, and that comprehensive approaches to irregular migration are needed including addressing its root causes.


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