Global Migration Group releases new book on youth and migration

Migration and Youth: Challenges and Opportunities offers unprecedented overview of how youth are affected by migration and agenda to achieve triple win.

Press release | 17 December 2014
GENEVA/NEW YORK/PARIS (ILO News) -- The Global Migration Group released – on the occasion of International Migrants Day – its new book Migration and Youth: Challenges and Opportunities.

Two years in the making, the book presents cutting edge knowledge, lessons learned, good practices and innovative policy from a score of United Nations agencies, other international organizations, academic experts, civil society and youth leaders.

The key innovative message of the publication is that, with the right policies in place, youth migration can be transformed from a challenge into an opportunity and achieve a triple-win, benefiting young migrants, the countries they depart from and their countries of destination.

The GMG report offers a first-time ever comprehensive overview of the many facets of youth migration. It explores the contexts of rural marginalization and environmental degradation from where many young migrants originate -- to the challenges they face in realising their rights, accessing decent work, and social protection in destination countries. Covering human rights, employment, gender, health, education and participation, the report offers an action-oriented contribution to the global migration policy debate and the post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

The book’s analysis is both critical and timely as demographic and structural changes result in aging populations and declining workforces in many countries. It provides a full agenda of policy and practical responses on a range of issues facing governments and societies.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon commended the GMG report for its “practical focus on how to transform youth migration from a challenge to an opportunity” adding, “Together, we can empower today’s youth – tomorrow’s students, workers, entrepreneurs, parents and leaders – to achieve their full human potential in a more peaceful, equitable, inclusive and sustainable world.”

The innovative product of international collaboration on migration, the book is produced by the Global Migration Group (GMG), an inter-agency group of 17 United Nations agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), striving for more coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approaches on international migration.

Salient points from the report

Why adolescents and youth?
The report focuses on migrant adolescents and youth because they represent a specific category of migrants whose unique needs, rights and challenges are not addressed in today's migration policy. Young people between 15 and 24 years of age represent over 12 per cent of the 232 million international migrants (people living in a country other than where they were born) and a large share of current migration flows.

Opportunities for adolescent and youth migrants
The publication confirms that adolescent and youth migrants are resourceful, resilient, adaptable to new environments and many have skills and qualifications for working with new technologies. Migration represents an important step for young people toward achieving a sustainable life for themselves and their families. In host communities, equality of treatment and opportunity allows migrants to contribute as productive members of communities, as workers, students, entrepreneurs, artists, and consumers. For young women, migration can also be a socially empowering experience.

Needs and risks facing adolescent and youth migrants
Young migrants, who are more vulnerable given their age and stage of life, experience isolation, exclusion, discrimination and insecurity. They often lose their social networks and end up without parental guidance and care. Young people are particularly affected by xenophobia and discrimination. Those in irregular situations are especially at risk of exploitation, trafficking, exclusion, detention and deportation. Girl migrants are vulnerable to severe human rights violations such as child marriage, sexual exploitation, violence and unpaid labour.

Youth, migration and the development agenda
GMG agencies recognize that migration is not a panacea for achieving development, nor can promoting migration substitute for appropriate public policies on development or on governing migration. GMG members agree that the migration experience can be beneficial to adolescents and youth if – and only if – migration policies are anchored in a system that protects young migrants’ human and labour rights.

Facts, figures and trends

Youth Migration: Facts & Figures (chapter 1), authored by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA), provides the most comprehensive compilation to date of facts and figures on youth migration. It recommends strengthening the evidence for effective policy by investing in collection, dissemination and analysis of age- and sex-disaggregated data; building capacity of governments, and doing qualitative and quantitative research.

Respecting human rights, social protection and gender

Human Rights of Adolescents and Youth in the Context of Migration (chapter 2), prepared under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), finds that despite the international legal framework to protect the rights of all persons -- notably under the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- adolescent and youth migrants are subject to many human rights violations. It discusses the detrimental impacts of immigration-related detention and restricted access to education on rights, well-being, and the development of migrant adolescents and youth.

Role and Relevance of Social Protection (chapter 3), by Patrick Taran of Global Migration Policy Associates (GMPA) with Sheila Murthy and Natalia Winder of UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) highlights social protection needs and the rights of migrant adolescents and youth, identifying measures that should be offered in countries of origin as well as destination to ensure their access to essential services, health care, and a minimal standard of living. The chapter recommends incorporating migrant youth into national social security systems.

Adolescent and Young Women Migrants (chapter 4), written by Professor Susan Martin of Georgetown University in consultation with UN Women, describes the causes and forms of migration of adolescent girls and young women, gaps in law and policy, and the importance of understanding the impact of migration on gender roles and on young women in education, health and employment. It proposes gender-guided measures, laws and practices to protect them.

The Refugee Dimension

Adolescents’ and Youths’ Right to Seek and Access Asylum and Protection (chapter 5), by Noëmi Fivat, Monika Sandvik-Nylund, Grith Norgaard and Sumbul Rizvi at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), describes risks facing adolescents and youth -- including unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) -- seeking refugee protection in the context of increased mobility but intensified control over the movement of people. The chapter poses five key responses: protection-sensitive entry systems, child protection systems, alternatives to detention of children and adolescents, family tracing and reunification for UASC, and regularization of status.

Employment, Education and health

Youth-Migration-Employment: Burning Issues for Governance, Development and Social Cohesion Worldwide (chapter 6), by Patrick Taran of GMPA in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), finds that labour market and demographic trends are fomenting significantly increased demand for migrant skills and labour in many countries worldwide. While employment and decent work are key issues of migration, many adolescent and youth migrants are subject to precarious work, exploitation and unacceptable working conditions. It concludes that ensuring decent work will realize both economic and social development benefits of migration as well as young peoples’ social protection.

Labour, Employment and Youth

Perspectives from West Africa (chapter 7), by Drs. Eleni Bizas and Jérôme Elie of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, highlights that regional mobility is most common among youth in Africa’s regional economic communities. It identifies policy needs in six critical areas: education, decent work, safe mobility, labour-intensive investment, health services, and rights protection, to enable youth to stay at home, make migration safer for those on the move, or maximise their potential when seeking employment.

Labour, Rural Youth and Migration (chapter 8), prepared by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), explores conditions in rural areas from which many migrants originate. Its message is that decent work, economic growth and sustainable development increase opportunities and social mobility for youth, urging policy measures to provide employment, financial credit and market opportunities as alternatives to migration for young people and to encourage their return from abroad to retain talent and capital in places of origin.

Remittances, Development and Youth (chapter 9), based on contributions by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the University of Sussex, finds that remittances sent by migrants to family members play an important role in poverty reduction and an ever-stronger role in the economies of many developing countries. The chapter highlights the need for measures to facilitate remittances and lower their costs for young migrants, as well as to enhance access by young migrants to financial services.

Offspring of Immigrants in OECD Education Systems and Labour Markets (chapter 10), by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), finds that children of immigrants, either born in the destination country or who migrated with or joined immigrant parents, form a substantial and growing share of youth in many OECD countries, but their educational achievement and access to employment often lag behind peer nationals. It recommends targeted approaches to expanding access to pre-school, increasing job training and apprenticeships, and additional measures to incorporate their parents into labour markets.

Migration and Tertiary Education (chapter 11), prepared by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization), finds that the number of youth studying abroad is growing rapidly, creating a need for international cooperation and regulatory agreements to oversee quality control of higher education and accreditation frameworks. It stresses dialogue and cooperation among countries to acknowledge educational qualifications obtained in other countries, as well as improving quality and harmonising standards of cross-border tertiary and vocational education, particularly by regional frameworks on accreditation, qualifications and quality assurance.

Health, Youth Migration and Development (chapter 12), by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), finds that the failure to protect and promote rights along with restrictive immigration and employment policies and pervasive anti-immigrant attitudes, lead to unequal access to health care and services, thus increasing the health risks of young migrants. Given that certain health risks are elevated for young migrants, its overarching recommendation is to ensure that adequate health services are available for, and accessible by, adolescent and youth migrants.

Mainstreaming migration

Mainstreaming Youth Migration into National Development Strategies (chapter 13), prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), finds that most countries have fallen short in incorporating youth migration into development policy and planning, despite its importance in achieving effective development practice.

Local Authorities, Migration and Youth (chapter 14), by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), underscores the crucial role of local government in addressing the impact and consequences of migration and migrants – migrant youth in particular – on local economies, employment, services and community life.

Strengthening Participation by Young Migrants (chapter 15), prepared by Patrick Taran of GMPA and Alison Raphael, UNICEF consultant, outlines young migrants’ participation in the life and decision-making of the communities where they live and in the policies that affect them, urging migrant youth participation in civil society organisations, unions, and community groups, particularly migrant youth organisations.

Environmental change and migration

Youth, Environmental Change and Migration (chapter 16), by IOM and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and chapter 17, Climate Change, International Migration and Youth, by Professor Susan Martin of Georgetown University, find that changes in the environment directly and indirectly influence the tendency to migrate; that these changes and resulting displacement will increase in coming years, and will particularly impact youth, but existing laws, policies and institutional arrangements are unprepared to meet this increasing global challenge.


To request interviews with authors of the report, please contact the ILO Department of Communication and Public Information: , +4122/799-7912.

The Global Migration Group (GMG) is an inter-agency group to promote the wider application of all relevant international and regional instruments and norms relating to migration, and to encourage the adoption of more coherent, comprehensive and better coordinated approaches to the issue of international migration. The GMG is particularly concerned with improving the overall effectiveness of its members and other stakeholders in capitalizing upon the opportunities and responding to the challenges presented by international migration. The ILO is the current chair of the GMG.