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Labour Migration

ILO head calls for fair migration agenda

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder urges better national and international coordination on migration policy at the Global Forum for Migration and Development in Stockholm

News | 16 May 2014
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
STOCKHOLM (ILO News) – An agenda for fair migration is needed that respects the rights of migrant workers and offers real opportunities for decent work, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said at an international meeting on the issue.

Speaking as the current chair of the Global Migration Group (GMG) at the Global Forum for Migration and Development in Stockholm, Ryder said, “joined-up policy making is required at the national and international levels to ensure that migration is fair for all.”

Ryder welcomed progress made by the GMG since its formation by the UN Secretary-General in 2006 and highlighted the work of its 16 member agencies on improving international coordination and protection of migrants’ human rights.

“The GMG is advocating for greater strategic cooperation on migration as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, both in terms of protecting rights and promoting migration as an enabler of development,” he said.

“GMG agencies are helping member states extend protection measures to migrants and supporting programs to provide direct support to migrants and their families,” he added.

Raising the level of debate

During the forum, Ryder said that migration remained a contentious issue in political debates and work needed to be done to inform the conversation at national and international levels.

“While concerns over immigration in some countries were understandable, they were often built on misperceptions which could be damaging to social cohesion if left unaddressed,” he said.

“People tend to believe that there is a higher presence of migrants in their countries than is really the case, and that migrants generally obtain more benefits from social protection systems than they contribute, when the reverse is actually true,” he added.

Ultimately it is not migration that is the problem, it is the lack of decent job creation."
Guy Ryder
Ryder called for stronger research data to improve understanding of the impacts of migration and said the current lack, “poses a continuing barrier to effective policy and planning that has in part contributed to the rise in negative public perceptions about migrants.“

He noted the efforts of GMG agencies, including the ILO, in improving the data knowledge base for policy makers and the public.

Addressing concerns that practices such as social dumping drive down wages and conditions, Ryder said “the best answer is to ensure that migrant workers have as good wages and conditions as local workers.”

“Ultimately it is not migration that is the problem, it is the lack of decent job creation,” he added.

Protecting the vulnerable

Despite positive experiences that can and should be cited, Ryder warned that migration is still too frequently associated with unacceptable labour and human rights abuses. He said that inaction on these issues is an abdication of responsibility.

The plight of migrants in crisis, stranded by conflict or climate disasters, needs targeted management strategies. He noted that guidelines and principles are being developed to assist states in adopting appropriate border governance measures.

“Globalization means that strategies on sustainable development cannot be fully realized absent strong partnerships across borders,” he said.

Ryder described the global migrant recruitment market as anarchic and in need of proper coordinated regulation to ensure fair and ethical hiring of workers from all countries.

Progress was being made, he said, including through the ILO’s Fair Recruitment Initiative, and the International Migration Organization’s International Recruitment Integrity System, designed to foster practices that are in line with ILO standards, such as Convention No. 181.

The role of labour inspectors also needed to be clarified, he said, to ensure that all workers, regardless of their nationality and legal status are protected.

Making fair migration a reality

Ryder emphasized that it was possible to build migration regimes which respond equitably to the interests of countries of origin and of destination and those of migrant workers and members of existing national labour forces.

Some measures were key to this he said, including:
  • Promoting decent work at home, to give truth to the proposition that migration is a choice and not a necessity.
  • Improving bilateral and regional agreements to meet the dynamic changes in labour mobility, particularly in securing the economic and social protection for migrants.
  • Ensuring a multilateral system that is more responsive toward realizing fair migration
  • Recognizing the value of social dialogue with representative employers’ and workers’ organizations as well as other stakeholders.
“We have to show the light -- show the way ahead through policies that work,” he said.

The ILO Director-General will present his report on migration to the International Labour Conference in Geneva, on 28 May. The ILO is currently chair of the Global Migration Group.