103rd International Labour Conference

Ryder: Migration poses major policy challenges

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder calls for fair migration policies and stronger measures against forced labour at the opening of the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference.

News | 28 May 2014
GENEVA (ILO News) – Migration is too often associated with the abuse of vulnerable workers and poses major policy challenges around the world, said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the opening of the 103rd International Labour Conference.

“Migration is taking place on a large and growing scale. Its patterns are becoming more complex, its nature is evolving. We all agree that is has the potential to contribute very considerably to growth and development,” Ryder told worker, employer and government delegates attending the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference.

However, he added that “lamentably it continues in too many cases to be associated with the unacceptable treatment and abuse of some of those who are the most vulnerable women and men in our labour markets.”

The Director-General’s report to the conference this year, Fair Migration, Setting an ILO agenda, will be discussed in plenary sessions next week.

With an estimated 232 million migrant workers around the world, the report points out that ever more people are crossing borders in search of employment. It sets out policy recommendations that respond to globalization, demographic shifts, conflicts, income inequalities and climate change.

The ILO is also the Chair of the United Nations’ Global Migration Group for 2014.

In his message to the International Labour Conference, Pope Francis said that “the sheer numbers of men and women forced to seek work away from their homelands is a cause for concern. Despite their hopes for a better future, they frequently encounter mistrust and exclusion, to say nothing of experiencing tragedies and disasters."

Forced labour

In setting the agenda for this year’s conference, Ryder also called for more determined action to end forced labour.

“There are today 21 million victims of forced labour in the world. And if we take a hard look at this disturbing reality we have to conclude that this is not simply the residue of abuse from a past era. Forced labour is mutating, it’s recreating itself in the most virulent of forms,” said Ryder.

Forced labour “is big business,” he added. “Our recent estimates show that it is worth US$ 150 billion a year in profits.”

The ILC is due to discuss strengthened action to end forced labour and supplement the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention 29, with particular regard to prevention and victim protection and compensation.

Turning to unemployment, the ILO chief warned that “with world unemployment at record levels and still growing despite timid recovery in economic growth, with young people its primary victims, jobs have to be front and centre in our work”.

Transition from the informal to the formal economy

And indeed the 2014 edition of the World of Work report: Developing with Jobs, launched earlier this week, focused on the employment challenges in the developing world.

“Quality jobs – decent work – are a crucial driver of development,” said Ryder. This key message of the report will influence the discussion at the conference on the transition from the informal to the formal economy.

“Formalization brings protection and improved conditions to workers. It brings fair competition and improved sustainability to enterprises. And it brings revenues and strengthened authority to government,” he said.

Ryder spoke also of the “need to have decent jobs and social protection included as explicit goals in the UN post-2015 Development Agenda.”

The International Labour Conference runs until 12 June and brings together worker, employer and government delegates from the ILO's 185 member States.