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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

More migrant workers over the past four years

Three per cent rise in international migrant workers noted

MANILA – The Geneva-based International Labour Organization said the number of migrant workers worldwide increased to 169 million with a three percent from 2017.

According to the latest ILO estimates, the share of youth migrant workers aged from 15-24 has also increased by almost 2 per cent or 3.2 million from 2017. The number reached 16.8 million in 2019.

The new report, ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers: Results and Methodology, shows that in 2019, international migrant workers was five per cent of the global labour force, making them an integral part of the world economy.

Many of the migrant workers are oftentimes in temporary, informal or unprotected jobs thereby exposing them to the greater risk of insecurity, layoffs and worsening working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified these vulnerabilities, particularly for women migrant workers, as they are over-represented in low-paid and low-skilled jobs and have limited access to social protection and fewer options for support services.

“The pandemic has exposed the precariousness of their situation. Migrant workers are often first to be laid-off, they experience difficulties in accessing treatment and they are often excluded from national COVID-19 policy responses,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department.

It was also found out that high-income countries continue to absorb the majority of migrant workers. More than two-thirds of international migrant workers are concentrated in high-income countries. From the 169 million international migrant workers, 63.8 million or 37.7 per cent are in Europe and Central Asia. Another 43.3 million or 25.6 per cent are in the Americas. Collectively, Europe and Central Asia and the Americas host 63.3 per cent of all migrant workers.

The Arb States, and Asia and the Pacific each host about 24 million migrant workers, which, in total correspond to 28.5 per cent of all migrant workers. Over in Africa, there are 13.7 million migrant workers, representing 8.1 per cent of the total.

Majority of the migrant workers, 99 million are men while 70 million are women.

According to the report, women face more socio-economic obstacles as migrant workers and are more likely to migrate as accompanying family members for reasons other than finding work. They may experience gender discrimination in employment and may lack networks, making it difficult to reconcile work and family life in a foreign country.

More young people leave their countries in search of work. The study revealed the share of youth among international migrant workers increased from 8.3 per cent in 2017 to 10.0 per cent in 2019. The increase may be related to high youth unemployment rates in a number of developing countries. The large majority of migrant workers, 86.5 per cent remain prime-age adults aged 25-64.

In many regions, international migrant workers account for a significant share of the labour force, making vital contributions to their destination countries’ societies and economies, and delivering essential jobs in critical sectors including health care, transportation, services, agriculture and food processing.

The same report disclosed 66.2 per cent of migrant workers are in services, 26.7 per cent in industry and 7.1 per cent in agriculture. Substantial gender differences exist between the sectors. There is higher representation of women migrant workers in services, which may be partly explained by a growing labour demand for care workers, including health and domestic work. Men migrant workers are more present in industry.

“Labour migration policies will be effective only if they are based on strong statistical evidence. This report offers sound estimations, based on robust methods and reliable data integrating harmonized complementary sources,” said Rafael Diez de Medina, Chief Statistician and Director of ILO Department of Statistics. He said these policies can help countries respond to shifts in labour supply and demand, stimulate innovation and sustainable development, and transfer and update skills. (Melo M. Acuna)

Filipino migrant workers leaving for abroad. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuna)

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