International Migrants Day

New ILO figures show 150 million migrants in the global workforce

A new ILO statistical study provides estimates on labour migration, including regions and industries where international migrant workers are established and a special focus on migrants in domestic work.

News | 16 December 2015
GENEVA (ILO News) – Migrant workers account for 150.3 million of the world’s approximately 232 million international migrants, according to a new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The report, ILO Global Estimates on Migrant Workers, shows migrant workers account for 72.7 per cent of the 206.6 million working age migrant population (15 years and over). The majority – 83.7 million – are men, with 66.6 million women migrant workers.

Commenting on the report, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said: “This analysis represents a significant contribution by the ILO in supporting member States to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in respect to targets within Goal 8 on protecting all workers, including migrant workers, and goal 10 on the implementation of well managed migration policies. Decision makers will now have real data on which to base their policies.”

Labour migration is a phenomenon that concerns all regions of the world, however almost half (48.5 per cent) of migrant workers are concentrated in two broad regions: Northern America, and Northern, Southern and Western Europe. The Arab States have the highest proportion of migrant workers as a share of all workers with 35.6 per cent.

The study also examines the distribution of the migrant workforce in broad industry groupings. The vast majority of migrant workers are in the services sectors, with 106.8 million workers accounting for 71.1 per cent of the total, followed by industry, including manufacturing and construction, with 26.7 million (17.8 per cent) and agriculture with 16.7 million (11.1 per cent). Among all migrant workers, 7.7 per cent are domestic workers.

“This estimate study shows that the vast majority of migrants migrate in search of better job opportunities. By applying a robust methodology we believe it will add significantly to our knowledge base on migration and provide a strong foundation for the development of effective migration policies,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department (WORKQUALITY).

High migrant workers labour force participation rates

What is the likelihood of migrant men and women to be in the labour force?

In general, migrants are more likely to be in the workforce than their national counterparts. These higher labour force participation rates are essentially associated with the higher proportion of migrant women in the workforce.

Where are migrants more likely to be in the labour force than non-migrants?
The data used to calculate estimates in the report refer to migrant workers in the country of destination and measure the migrant numbers in 2013. Data from 176 countries and territories representing 99.8 per cent of the world working age population (15 years old and over) have been included in the study.

A special focus on migrant domestic workers

The report also highlights the significant global numbers of migrant domestic workers and the marked gender disparities in this sector.

Domestic work is one of the least regulated sectors of the economy and, as such, is of particular concern to the ILO. Due to the concentration of migrant women workers and relatively low visibility of the workforce in this sector multiple forms of discrimination often intersect.

Of the estimated 67.1 million domestic workers in the world, 11.5 million, or 17.2 per cent are international migrants. About 73.4 per cent (or around 8.5 million) of all migrant domestic workers are women. South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific host the largest share, with 24.0 per cent of the global number of female migrant domestic workers, followed by Northern, Southern and Western Europe, with 22.1 per cent of the total, and the Arab States with 19.0.

With the aging of societies and other demographic and socioeconomic changes, migrant domestic workers are likely to continue moving internationally in great numbers to fill in care and household services’ needs.

Migrant domestic workers by sex
"In many ways the migration issue is centre stage in the 2030 Development Agenda for Sustainable Development. Migrants need work but it’s equally certain that in coming years many destination economies will need new workers. The world will need more and better data and indicators to track these flows and this report sets a new standard in the quest to have sound global figures to guide policy makers," concluded Rafael Diez de Medina, Director of the ILO Department of Statistics.

The report comes as the ILO marks the 40th anniversary of Convention 143, the Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers adopted by the International Labour Conference of 1975.