World Sees an Increase of Migrant Workers

Ukraine War, Conflict, Climate Adds More to Displacement

The world witnessed an increase of migrant workers from 164 to 169 million since 2017 even as several countries saw a marked rise in the number of young people seeking opportunities abroad. The International Labour organisation (ILO) detailed this in their latest report ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers: Results and Methodology.

Noting that COVID-19 pandemic affected the magnitude and characteristics of international labour migration, the report mentions that the pandemic had an unparalleled impact on the global economy and the world of work. The third edition of the ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers: Results and Methodology presents the most recent estimates on the stock of international migrant workers, disaggregated by age, sex, country income group and region, and the estimation methodology. This edition takes 2019 as its reference year.


While globally migrant workers constitute 4.9 per cent of the labour force of destination countries, this figure is highest at 41.4 per cent in the Arab States. The labour force participation rate of migrants at 69.0 per cent is higher than the labour force participation of non-migrants at 60.4 per cent.


Men have a bigger share in international migrant force. When 99 million migrant workforce are men, 70 million are women. While men constitute 58.5 per cent of migrant workers, women constitute 41.5 per cent. The report notes that this is because women face more economic and non-economic obstacles as migrant workers. Moreover, women are likely to migrate as accompanying family members for reasons other than to find work. They also can experience gender discrimination in the labour market and lack of social networks that make it difficult to reconcile work and family life in a foreign country. In terms of geography, the report mentions widespread inequality. Northern, Southern and Western Europe have more than 50 per cent female share among migrant workers as compared to below 20 per cent in the Arab States.


Migrant workers constituted 72.7 per cent of migrants of working age in 2013. The figures were 70 per cent in 2017 and 69 per cent in 2019. The ILO projects that the general decline in participation rates observed since 1990 will continue until at least 2030.


The ILO mentioned that the share of youth among international migrant workers increased over time from 8.3 per cent in 2017 to ten per cent in 2019. On the other hand, the report pointed out that the share of older workers (aged 65 plus) reduced from 5.2 per cent to 3.6 per cent over the same time period. The report explained the high representation of prime-age adults due to this age groups better ability to migrate to a foreign country and their higher potential gains than younger migrants with less years of experience, or older migrants with less remaining economically active years. The increase in youth migration was because of high unemployment rates in many developing countries and the phenomenon of the “youth bulge”


The report mentions that 66.2 per cent of migrant workers are in services. This constitutes 26.7 per cent in industry and 7.1 per cent in agriculture. Among women, the ILO said that that 79.9 per cent are in services, 14.2 per cent in industry and 5.9 per cent in agriculture. Compared to women, the distribution of men between industry and services is relatively more balanced. It said that 35.6 per cent of men were employed in industry and 56.4 per cent in services.


In the report, the ILO says that 13.9 million migrants (67.4 per cent) are in high-income countries and 33 million (19.5 per cent) in upper-middle-income countries. The rest of the migrants are in lower-middle-income (9.5 per cent) and low-income countries (3.6 per cent).


The ILO in the report states that majority of migrant workers are mainly found in three sub-regions.  When 23.9 per cent of the migrant workers are seen in Northern, Southern and Western Europe, 22.8 per cent are seen in Northern America and 12.6 per cent in the Arab States. Within these three sub-regions, men migrant workers are evenly distributed but women migrant workers are more heavily concentrated in Northern America (24.9 per cent) and Northern, Southern and Western Europe (29.4 per cent). Only six  per cent of women migrant workers are in the Arab States.


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