ILO Statement to the Second Committee of the 67th General Assembly

Search for decent work fueling international migration

International migration is a global phenomenon and essentially a labour issue today. Its main driver is the search for a decent life and it is therefore linked, directly and indirectly, to the world of work and decent employment opportunities.

Statement | New York | 18 October 2012
Mr. Chair,

The ILO welcomes the UN Secretary-General’s report on International migration and development (A/67/254), which provides a succinct account of recent developments on migration and development and the efforts of the United Nations to enhance partnerships and cooperation, such as through the Global Migration Group and the support it provides to Member States and the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

International migration is a global phenomenon and essentially a labour issue today. Its main driver is the search for a decent life and it is therefore linked, directly or indirectly, to the world of work and decent employment opportunities. An estimated 214 million people – about 3.1 per cent of the world’s population – live outside their country of origin, which is more than double the number 25 years ago. Of these 214 million people, approximately 105 million are economically active and, if their family members are also counted, they make up almost 90 per cent of the total international migrant population. These numbers are expected to increase as a result of a growing demand for skilled and low-skilled workers in destination countries, ageing populations and workforces, the lack of jobs and decent working conditions in countries of origin, and widening income inequalities within and between countries.

Given the centrality of the world of work to international migration and to the migration and development relationship, the ILO has strived to ensure global policy debates and initiatives address key challenges and questions associated with labour migration. The ILO has a constitutional mandate concerning migrant workers (protection of “the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own” – ILO Constitution, Preamble) and the tools in the form of an established body of international labour standards, including standards specifically concerned with the governance of labour migration and the protection of migrant workers (Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions Convention, 1975 (No. 143), and accompanying Recommendations No. 86 and 151), and the non-binding ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration (2006), which reflects a consensus of its tripartite constituents and also includes guidelines specifically devoted to the migration and development relationship.

Too often, migration policies, including those addressing the migration and development nexus, while connected with labour market issues or other economic considerations, are dominated by interior or security policy concerns. In coordination with other government ministries and stakeholders, the ILO strives to enhance the capacity of labour ministries and employers’ and workers’ organizations – which are at the heart of the real economy – to better address the linkages between migration, employment and labour markets and to formulate and implement national labour migration policies that are consistent with national employment and development policies as well as international standards.

Protecting workers’ rights, promoting policy coherence, strengthening institutional mechanisms and encouraging social dialogue are distinct features of ILO interventions everywhere.

The ILO’s unique approach is making a real difference at the country and regional level, for example, in: mainstreaming employment and labour rights in national migration policies by means of tripartite consultation; enhancing the effectiveness of bilateral agreements on labour migration and social protection; promoting fair recruitment practices; and creating the space for ILO’s constituency in labour migration governance within regional economic integration processes, including in areas such as social security coordination and recognition of skills.

The 2013 UN High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and its followup will provide an opportunity to affirm the value added of the linkages between employment, labour protection and development policies, and to recognize the pivotal role of the ILO’s constituency in the improved governance of international labour migration. As outlined in the Report of the UN Secretary-General, four themes have been proposed for the High-level Dialogue: (1) Leveraging diaspora contributions for development; (2) Promoting legal and orderly migration, while protecting migrant rights; (3) Mainstreaming migration into the development agenda; and (4) Strengthening partnerships and cooperation in international migration at all levels. Given their evident labour dimensions, these are all areas in which the ILO has substantive contributions to make.

In the theme of leveraging diaspora contributions for development, it is fundamental to focus on specific issues such as skills development, return and social and professional reintegration, policy coherence, gender and migrant domestic workers, with a particular focus on the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and its supplementing Recommendation (No. 201), which, to date, has been ratified by three countries (Mauritius, Philippines and Uruguay).  ILO conventions, recommendations and tools migration for employment and in particular the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration can be instrumental in the debate on promoting legal and orderly migration, while protection migrants rights. The process of strengthening partnerships and cooperation in international migration should involve social partners, including employers’ and workers’.

Tripartite delegations will discuss the ILO engagement on 2013 High-level Dialogue and its follow-up in the next session of the ILO Governing Body, in November 2012. The outcomes of this discussion will frame a meaningful and legitimate message coming from the world of work that can be a valuable contribution to the UN debate on international migration and development.

I thank you.