Labour migration

Labour migration is an increasingly important social and economic phenomenon in the region. The largest country, the Russian Federation, is a significant destination for migrants from both Central Asian and the South Caucasus, with 1.1 million migrant workers having been registered since the implementation of the new Russian immigration legislation in 2007. Kazakhstan is also a significant destination country within the region. Labour migrants often work in the informal sector, where the lack of legal protection and insufficient information about the rights they do have make them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from recruiters, employers, and authorities. They are also exposed to abuses resulting from xenophobia and racism.

Many of these migrants are filling a niche in the national labour markets by doing jobs that nationals do not want. At the same time, labour migration and remittances sent to families have become a survival strategy and a financial safety net. Remittances represent a substantial part of GDP in Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan.

A shortage of information about the real job options and work conditions in receiving countries has paved the way for exploitation of migrant labour, resulting in forced labour, harmful child labour, trafficking, and other forms of abuse. Women suffer disproportionately from the growth of trafficking in the region. Moreover, there is little social or economic support for irregular migrants who are returned to their home countries, often stigmatized and lacking the basic skills and resources they need to pull their lives back together.

In this context, ILO Moscow Office, taking into account the Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), is working to assist governments and social partners in regulating regional migration so as to limit its social costs and to achieve its potential benefits for workers, employers, and societies. This involves helping to –
  • create sound legal frameworks for migration and workable administrative policies to implement these;
  • reduce irregular migration and regulate legal migration in a manner that enhances poverty reduction and economic growth;
  • extend social security to migrant workers through multilateral and bilateral agreements between governments, following the provisions of the Equality of Treatment (Social Security) Convention, 1962 (No. 118),
  • encourage ethical behaviour by private employment agencies through promoting self-regulatory associations and codes of ethics, as well as sound regulatory practices in accordance with the Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181);
  • improve linkages among government institutions and programmes that support migrants, principally national employment services, labour inspectorates, vocational training schemes, and programmes to promote small businesses;
  • combat trafficking in persons by addressing its root economic causes;
  • support programmes to help reintegrate returned irregular migrants, including counseling, training, employment generation, and other supports;
  • enhance regional exchange and policy application of statistics and data collection; and
  • conduct research to develop evidence based policies on: assessing the demand for foreign workers and formulating admission policies; regularization programmes; recognition of qualifications; encouraging savings and investment from remittances.
The ILO’s main message is that migration should not be perceived only as an issue of border control, it is a key economic, human rights and labour rights issue. Migrants make enormous contributions to the economies of host and origin countries. Effective governance of labour migration can result in benefits to all the stake-holders, including countries of origin, destination and migrant workers/their families. Governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations have a vital role to play in regulating migration and helping protect workers from undue risks.