On this International Youth Day the spotlight is on youth migration and development.
Each year, many young women and men migrate in search of decent work and better living conditions. This is a reality of our globalized economy. Differentiated demographic and income trends are adding to migratory dynamics and on the present course, the pressures will become even stronger.
Young migrants make up 27 million of the overall 214 million international migrants. But being the most mobile social group, young people constitute the bulk of annual migration movements. They largely move from one developing country to another, with South-to-North migration representing only a third of total international migration.
Today we acknowledge the positive contribution that millions of committed, talented and energetic young migrants make to development and the wellbeing of entire families and communities. When youth migration takes place in conditions of freedom, dignity, equity and security, it can boost economic and social development both of countries of origin and destination.
Unfortunately, many young migrants are easy prey and frequently get trapped in exploitative and abusive jobs, including forced labour. And too often, they – like other migrants – become scapegoats for the shortcomings of economic and social systems.
Practical steps can be taken to enhance the safety of all migrant workers and respect for their rights and dignity. Countries of origin can step up their efforts to provide pre-departure information and training, regulate and monitor the enforcement of fair recruitment practices and ensure that their young migrants have access to adequate protection. In parallel, host countries should undertake to ensure that they receive equal treatment and enjoy the same rights afforded to any other worker. Numerous international labour standards – in particular those dealing with migration for employment, labour inspection, protection of wages, and safety and health at work or those protecting particularly vulnerable categories of workers such as domestic workers, give sound direction for action.
Migration, however, is only a partial response to the youth employment crisis. The other side of the coin is the lack of opportunity and the challenge of survival at home. As set out in the ILO’s 2012 Call for Action, a multi-pronged approach to employment promotion – including a favourable macro-economic environment, skills and labour market policies that facilitate the school-to-work transition, rights at work, youth entrepreneurship and social protection of young workers – is essential. Shaping effective policies for decent work for young people – at home and in the context of migration – requires the engagement of governments, employers’ organizations and trade unions in social dialogue.
Our work with the UN family on youth employment and migration has shown that broad-based partnerships and stronger coordination in the multilateral system can facilitate social dialogue, exchange of good practices, and training to ensure better employment and labour migration policy coherence and maximize the impact of programmes that promote decent work for young people.
The United Nations General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development taking place in October 2013 is an important opportunity to advance towards a framework which can uphold the rights and interests of young migrant workers.
Let us never lose sight of the young women and men at the heart of the migration process. We must assume the collective responsibility of ensuring their safety and protection. Let us join forces to maximize the development benefits of youth labour migration while striving for balanced development that broadens the options for all.
UN International Youth Day