Migration’s challenges cited

Posted on May 30, 2014

MIGRATION -- often associated with the abuse of vulnerable foreign workers -- poses major policy challenges around the world, the head of a United Nations agency said at the opening of the 103rd International Labor Conference that opened in Geneva on May 28.

A WOMAN sets to depart at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in this photo taken on Jan. 6, 2008. -- BW FILE PHOTO
“Migration is taking place on a large and growing scale. Its patterns are becoming more complex, its nature is evolving. We all agree that is has the potential to contribute very considerably to growth and development,” a statement of the International Labor Organization (ILO) yesterday quoted ILO Director-General Guy Ryder as telling delegates on the first day of the May 28-June 12 conference.

At the same time, Mr. Ryder noted “lamentably it continues in too many cases to be associated with the unacceptable treatment and abuse of some of those who are the most vulnerable women and men in our labor markets.”

The conference brings together worker, employer and government delegates from ILO’s 185 member economies.

Mr. Ryder’s report to the conference this year, titled: “Fair migration, setting an ILO agenda,” will be discussed in plenary sessions next week.

ILO heads the United Nations’ Global Migration Group for 2014.

With an estimated 232 million migrant workers around the world, the report noted that even more people are now crossing borders in search of employment.

It then makes policy recommendations in response to impact on labor of globalization, demographic shifts, conflicts, inequalities and climate change.

In his message to the same conference, Pope Francis said “the sheer numbers of men and women forced to seek work away from their homelands is a cause for concern.”

“Despite their hopes for a better future, they frequently encounter mistrust and exclusion, to say nothing of experiencing tragedies and disasters,” he noted.

In setting the agenda for this year’s conference, Mr. Ryder called for more determined action in a bid to end forced labor.

“There are today 21 million victims of forced labor in the world,” Mr. Ryder noted.

“And if we take a hard look at this disturbing reality, we have to conclude that this is not simply the residue of abuse from a past era,” he said.

“Forced labor is mutating, it’s recreating itself in the most virulent of forms.”

Forced labor “is big business,” Mr. Ryder added.

“Our recent estimates show that it is worth $150 billion a year in profits.”

The conference is scheduled to discuss strengthened action to end forced labor and supplement ILO’s Forced Labor Convention 29, with particular regard to prevention as well as victim protection and compensation.

Turning to unemployment, the ILO chief warned that “with world unemployment at record levels and still growing despite timid recovery in economic growth -- with young people its primary victims -- jobs have to be front and center in our work.”

ILO noted that the 2014 edition of its World of Work report, titled: “Developing with jobs” that was launched earlier this week, focused on employment challenges in the developing world.

“Quality jobs -- decent work -- are a crucial driver of development,” said Mr. Ryder.

This key message of the report will help guide discussion at the conference on the transition from the informal to the formal economy, ILO said in its statement.

“Formalization brings protection and improved conditions to workers,” Mr. Ryder said. “It brings fair competition and improved sustainability to enterprises; and it brings revenues and strengthened authority to government.”

Mr. Ryder also cited the “need to have decent jobs and social protection included as goals of the UN post-2015 Development Agenda.”