Labour migration and inclusive development: setting a course for success.

Author:Leighton, Michelle

There are over 100 million migrant workers living and working around the globe. Together with their families they represent most of the international migrants now estimated at 232 million people living outside their country of origin. (1) Almost half are women, migrating increasingly for employment. About one in eight are between the ages of 15 and 24. South-South migration has now surpassed South-North migration: more than 50 per cent of emigrants from developing countries move to another developing country, and largely within their region. (2) Nearly 80 per cent of South-South migration is between countries with a common border. (3)

For most, finding decent, better paying jobs, is at the heart of their quest to move. The lack of economic livelihood and income inequality in their home country is a driving force. Young people entering the workforce are particularly affected as they are overrepresented in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and services that are more vulnerable to economic downturns. Those who find jobs often work below their skill level; 32 per cent of migrants with university degrees are working in middle to low skilled occupations. (4) The International Labour Organization (ILO) figures show that we face a continuing rise in unemployment in those under the age of 24 over the next five years (see graph). Some now refer to these young workers as the "crisis generation." (5)

For workers of every age who are leaving declining rural economies, much of their drive is forced by significant problems related to poor infrastructure, agricultural land degradation, water scarcity and, increasingly, climate or weather related disasters. (6) Communities already threatened by water scarcity, food and housing insecurity, low employment and the spread of disease are likely to become more vulnerable to disasters. (7) This includes much of the developing world--"one in 19 persons living in developing countries may be affected, in comparison to 1 in 1,500 persons in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries." (8)



Unsustainable development, poor development and inequitable development lead to failure in the jobs market. Demographic and economic inequalities, combined with vulnerability to crises, are expected to lead to rising migration levels for decades to come.

Labour mobility can foster new opportunities for workers who would otherwise be unemployed, and improve the productivity and prosperity of businesses in need of workers. Migrants contribute to host countries by filling jobs that spur economic growth, and to home countries by sending remittances back--$500 billion a year (estimated by the World Bank in 2012), with over $400 billion going to families in developing countries. The level of remittances globally has grown in spite of economic or political crises. Remittances to developing countries increased 5 per cent last year and ten-fold the amount in 1990.

With such large transfers that exceed three times the total amount of overseas development assistance...

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