Provide equal opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants

By Mr Tim De Meyer, Director, ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia

Statement | Beijing, China | 18 December 2014
Today, there are an estimated 232 million migrant workers around the world. Globalization, hope for better opportunities and livelihoods, demographic shifts, conflicts, income inequalities and climate change encourage ever more workers and their families to cross borders in search of employment and security. Migrant workers contribute to the growth and development in their host countries, while their home countries greatly benefit from their remittances and the skills acquired from their migration experience. However, these contributions of migrant workers are not fully recognized and they are often at risk of exploitation and discrimination. They also suffer poor working and living conditions and have difficulty in obtaining social integration and protection. This is particularly true for specific sectors where typically migrant workers are engaged (e.g. the dangerous work done by Chinese construction workers in Mongolia and the difficult circumstances for Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong SAR which drew public attention in the media).

The migration process implies complex challenges in terms of governance, migrant workers’ protection, migration and development linkages, and international cooperation. The ILO’s mandate in the world of work as well as its competencies and unique tripartite structure entrust it with special responsibilities in addressing the challenges facing migrant workers as a special target group. The ILO promotes the rights of migrant workers through its Decent Work Agenda, which means that the migrant workers should be entitled to fundamental human rights at work, including the right to be protected against discrimination; productive work as the basis of a livelihood; protection against accidents, injuries and diseases at work, and social security, social inclusion and participation in social dialogue. Key principles are laid down in the ILO Conventions and Recommendations which make provision for the rights protection of migrant workers and their families.
 "No society can develop its true potential when legal, social or political barriers prevent entire segments of the population, such as migrants, from contributing." -- Guy Rider, ILO Director-General

Young people aged 15-24 represent about one-eighth (28.2 million) of migrant population, and they are a considerably larger proportion of those currently migrating. On 18 December 2014, on the occasion of the International Migrants Day, the Global Migration Group (an interagency group currently chaired by the ILO) will release a bold new publication “Migration and Youth: Challenges and Opportunities”. The publication offers a full agenda of policy and practical responses on the range of issues facing governments and societies regarding the intersection of migration, youth and development.

With the rapid economic development and opening-up in China as well as the global migration trend, China is facing a challenge of adapting to being simultaneously a country of origin, transit, and destination. Addressing this global migration challenge requires international responsibility and cooperation. At the same time, China is also experiencing the most extensive internal rural-urban migration due to rapid urbanization process. The ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia has carried out policy consultations, programmes and technical cooperation on migration issues with international development partners, Chinese tripartite constituents and other social partners to protect the rights of migrant workers. This is done through building the capacity of the national constituents on migration management, promoting cross-border cooperation to combat irregular migration (migrant smuggling and human trafficking), expanding the channels of regular migration, and better regulating the external migration of Chinese nationals through recruitment agencies. Focused efforts are also made to improve the rights, social protection, skills development and employability of internal rural migrants and to strengthen legal assistance for them.

On this International Migrants Day, the ILO joins our development partners in reaffirming our commitment to provide equal opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants and maximize the benefits of labour migration for all those involved.