Labour migration

International labour migration statistics in South Asia: Establishing a subregional database and improving data collection for evidence-based policy-making

This report provides a comprehensive analysis of statistics related to labour migration from South Asia. It also includes conversations on developments and trends in labour migration, migrant worker attributes, and associated thematic areas in the sub-region.

The stock of South Asian nationals residing outside of South Asia increased from just under 24 million in 1990 to more than 38 million as of 2017. Employment is a primary driver of migration out of South Asia. As labour migration has continued to grow, both in importance and scale, within and out of South Asia, it has become increasingly important for governments to ground policy in evidence. This report compiles the data that exist on labour migration and migrant workers in South Asia, highlights many challenges and limitations in the current statistical framework, and provides concrete recommendations on how data collection and analysis can be strengthened in the sub-region. The developments and trends discussed are primarily those that can be derived from relevant quantitative data produced at the national and international levels up to 31 December 2017.

This report has also shown the scope for greater investment and cooperation in data collection and dissemination on labour migration in the sub-region. The International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) has outlined the need for “harmonized labour migration statistics to inform labour market and migration policies”. Additionally, data is an important factor in migration-related initiatives included in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, with Target 17.18 in particular committing to “enhancing capacity building support to developing countries to increase significantly the availability of high quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by several characteristics, including migratory status”.

The report will be used to inform national, sub-regional, regional and international discourse on labour migration policies and programmes, and may instruct future technical cooperation on data collection.