Time to improve governance in labour migration in Latin America and Caribbean – UN

Construction workers on the Panama Canal expansion project. Photo: World Bank/Gerardo Pesantez

1 September 2016 – With migrant workers representing 64 per cent of the 232 million migrants in the world in 2015, it is urgent to deal “correctly” with labour migration by implementing good governance mechanisms, a United Nations report on these movements in Latin America and the Caribbean has warned.

The last five years have seen the number of migrant workers living in this region rise from 3.2 million to 4.3 million, according to a news release from the International Labour Organization (ILO) centred on the report “Labour migration in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“The search for work opportunities is definitely the main motivation of the migrants,” ILO Regional Director José Manuel Salazar said as he launched the report in México City earlier this week. “Nevertheless, migratory policies are often seen from the border control and national security paradigm, and do not take into account the labour dimension.”

Furthermore, “there is a clear divorce between employment policies and labour migration policies, and now it is extremely urgent for them to complement each other,” Mr. Salazar said.

The ILO study identifies and analyzes a “complex system” of 11 main corridors used by workers, nine of them interregional south-south corridors which connect countries within this region, and two south-north corridors with the United States and Spain as destinations.

The ILO suggested that labour migration must be urgently dealt with by implementing good governance mechanisms, and by linking it with the necessities and dynamics of the world of work.

“If we can handle labour migration, we can maintain and increase inclusive economic growth in destination countries and reduce poverty in origin countries,” Mr. Salazar said.

The Regional Director added that “history teaches us nothing can stop migratory flows, neither fences nor walls; we also know it is not easy for destination societies to adapt to the arrival of workers, but we need to take advantage of the opportunities and the potential these human resources represent for our societies.”

The report also underlined several features in the corridors: the “feminization” of labour migration, with women accounting for more than 50 per cent of migrants; the high proportion of irregular and informal migrant workers and the low access to social protection; and the frequently deficient work conditions as well as abuse, exploitation and discrimination facing many migrant workers.

Better strategies needed

The report highlighted fragmentation in regional migratory agreements, a weak labour and rights perspective in migratory institutions and governing, and lack of coherence between migratory and employment policies.

The report stated that stakeholders of the world of work, including Labour Ministries, employers and workers’ organizations, must participate more actively in creating migration strategies. It also warned that migrant workers do not participate enough in unionization and collective bargaining processes.

The main action points suggested by the ILO for Latin America and the Caribbean are:
  • Promoting a regular, safe and equal migration;
  • Promoting fair recruitment processes;
  • Improving work conditions and formalization of migrant workers;
  • Promoting a better governability of migrations and a more solid social dialogue;
  • Use a rights perspective to tackle migration;
  • Strengthen the links between employment and labour migration policies;
  • Promoting perspectives of gender, protection of migrant children and prevention of migrant child labour; and
  • Raise awareness about the contribution to development made by migrant workers.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

To escape gangs and poverty, Central American children making risky journey to US – UNICEF

Related Stories