International Migrants Day - Message by Mr. Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO

"Gains from migration and protection of migrant rights are inseparable" said Mr. Juan Somavia, highlighting the enormous contributions made by women and men migrant workers to the prosperity of their home and destination countries, on the occasion of International Migrants Day, 18 December.

Statement | Geneva | 29 November 2007

Today we recognize and appreciate the enormous contributions made by women and men migrant workers to the prosperity of their home and destination countries.

Most of the world’s migrants are those who migrate for employment, and their families. This means that international migration is very much a decent work and labour market issue. The international community is increasingly recognizing the crucial linkages between migration and development. Remittances represent the most tangible contribution made by migrant workers to their home countries. Return migrants bring back significant financial, human and social capital. Transnational migrant communities promote home country development through trade, investments, and technology transfers.

At the same time migrant workers make a major contribution in destination countries. They help to meet labour market needs and their inputs contribute to economic growth; and they help to maintain the viability of social security and welfare systems, making up for declining birth rates and ageing populations. Yet the emphasis on migration and development should not detract from the crucial importance of migrant rights. Gains from migration and protection of migrant rights are inseparable. Migrant workers can make their best contribution to host and source countries when they enjoy decent working conditions, and when their fundamental human and labour rights are respected.

There is growing consensus that destination countries need to expand legal avenues for admission of both skilled and low-skilled workers through temporary migration programmes and circular migration systems in line with labour market needs. But temporary migration programmes should not be a mechanism for the abuse of migrant workers. ILO research has highlighted widespread labour market discrimination against migrant workers in destination countries. This underscores the need to promote decent work for all.

Three international Conventions – the Migration for Employment Convention, 1949 (No. 97), the Migrant Workers Convention, 1975 (No. 143), both ILO instruments, and the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and their Families adopted by the United Nations on 18 December 1990 – define a comprehensive normative framework for the promotion and protection of migrant rights. They have been supplemented by the 2006 ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration – a nonbinding framework negotiated within the ILO’s tripartite structure comprising governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations. It spells out principles, guidelines and good practices for the development and implementation of sound labour migration policies consistent with the protection of migrant rights.

The ILO stands ready to work with other stakeholders to promote and respect the rights of migrant workers, and promote international migration as an instrument for growth and development in both source and destination countries.