The growing pace of economic globalization has created more migrant workers than ever before. Unemployment and increasing poverty have prompted many workers in developing countries to seek work elsewhere. It is estimated that 73 per cent of migrants are workers. In industrialized countries, demand for labour, especially unskilled labour, has increased. As a result, millions of workers and their families travel to countries other than their own to find work. Considerable efforts have been made over recent years to obtain reliable and comparable data on labour migration. However, as noted by the ILO and the international community, there remain significant gaps. In response, the ILO has published global and regional estimates of migrant workers. According to these estimates, there are at present approximately 244 million migrants around the world, representing 3.3 per cent of the global population. Women make up almost half of migrants. (Note 1) Migrant workers contribute to the economies of their host countries, and the remittances they send home help to boost the economies of their countries of origin. Yet, migrant workers often benefit from inadequate social protection and are vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking. Skilled migrant workers are less vulnerable to exploitation, but their departure deprives some developing countries of the valuable labour needed for their own economies. ILO standards on migration provide tools for both countries of origin and of destination to manage migration flows and ensure adequate protection for this vulnerable category of workers.
Relevant ILO instruments
- Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) – [ratifications ]
Requires ratifying states to facilitate international migration for employment by establishing and maintaining a free assistance and information service for migrant workers and taking measures against misleading propaganda relating to emigration and immigration. Includes provisions on appropriate medical services for migrant workers and the transfer of earnings and savings. States have to apply treatment no less favourable that that which applies to their own nationals in respect to a number of matters, including conditions of employment, freedom of association and social security.
- Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143) – [ratifications ]
Provides for measures to combat clandestine and illegal migration while at the same time setting forth the general obligation to respect the basic human rights of all migrant workers. It also extends the scope of equality between legally resident migrant workers and national workers beyond the provisions of the 1949 Convention to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, social security, trade union and cultural rights, and individual and collective freedoms for persons who as migrant workers or as members of their families are lawfully within a ratifying state’s territory. Calls upon ratifying states to facilitate the reunification of families of migrant workers legally residing in their territory.
- Further relevant instruments
Note 1: ILO, Addressing governance challenges in a changing labour migration landscape , Report IV, International Labour Conference, 106th Session, Geneva, 2017
- General survey concerning the migrant workers instruments (2016)
- Towards a fair deal for migrant workers in the global economy – (Report VI, International Labour Conference, 92nd Session, 2004)
- General Survey on Migrant Workers (1999)