Labour Migration and Migrant Integration
International labour migration is defined as the movement of people from one country to another for the purpose of employment. Today, an estimated 105 million persons are working in a country other than their country of birth. Labour mobility has become a key feature of globalization and the global economy with migrant workers earning US$ 440 billion in 2011, and the World Bank estimating that more than $350 billion of that total was transferred to developing countries in the form of remittances. However, despite the efforts made to ensure the protection of migrant workers, many remain vulnerable and assume significant risks during the migration process.
When properly managed, labour migration has far-reaching potential for the migrants, their communities, the countries of origin and destination, and for employers. While job creation in the home country is the preferred option, demographic, social and economic factors are increasingly the drivers of migration. As a result, a growing number of both sending and receiving countries view international labour migration as an integral part of their national development and employment strategies. On one hand, countries of origin benefit from labour migration because it relieves unemployment pressures and contributes to development through remittances, knowledge transfer, and the creation of business and trade networks. On the other hand, for destination countries facing labour shortages, orderly and well-managed labour migration can lighten labour scarcity and facilitate mobility.
IOM strives to protect migrant workers and to optimize the benefits of labour migration for both the country of origin and destination as well as for the migrants themselves.
In its labour migration programming, IOM builds capacity in labour migration management by:
- offering policy and technical advice to national governments;
- supporting the development of policies, legislation and administrative structures that promote efficient, effective and transparent labour migration flows;
- assisting governments to promote safe labour migration practices for their nationals;
- facilitating the recruitment of workers, including pre-departure training and embarkation preparedness;
- promoting the integration of labour migrants in their new workplace and society.
IOM implements various labour migration programmes in 70 countries. The beneficiaries of these programmes include:
- migrants, their families and their communities;
- local and national governments;
- private sector entities such as employers and industry representatives; and
- regional organizations.
Through its global network of more than 400 offices, IOM is able to bring together governments, civil society and the private sector to establish labour migration programmes and mechanisms that balance their various interests, and address migrants’ needs. The IOM approach to international labour migration is to foster the synergies between labour migration and development, and to promote legal avenues of labour migration as an alternative to irregular migration. Moreover, IOM aims to facilitate the development of policies and programmes that are in the interest of migrants and society, providing effective protection and assistance to labour migrants and their families.
Since the 1950s IOM has implemented programmes that assist Member States with the integration of migrants as a key to effective and comprehensive migration management. While the term “integration” can be understood differently depending on the country and context, it is generally defined as the process of mutual adaptation between host society and migrant. It implies a sense of obligation and respect for a core set of values that bind migrants and their host communities to a common purpose. Integration is essential for all stakeholders, not only as a way of providing economic and cultural benefits but also for ensuring the security and stability of societies as a whole.
One of the main challenges of creating an effective integration policy is to make sure that it intersects with other major policy areas, including the protection of migrants’ human rights and equal opportunities, employment and labour-market issues, regional development, national security, social cohesion, public health, education, and naturalization and citizenship issues. IOM works with government, non-government and private sector stakeholders to address specific integration challenges, and to develop joint policy strategies and identify concrete support measures.
IOM supports policies and strategies that promote the social, economic and cultural inclusion of migrants within existing legal frameworks in countries of destination. Its focus is on the development of strategies that help migrants better integrate into new communities as well as assisting receiving communities to recognize the positive contributions that migrants can make. This two-way integration process is essential for the existence of thriving, multicultural communities.
In keeping with IOM’s vision for successful migrant integration, the Organization’s programmes may include a range of components:
- Social inclusion of migrants and marginalized groups, including increased access of migrants to public services;
- Information about migration through established Migrant Resource Centres;
- Capacity-building and training, including pre-departure orientation and post-arrival language training;
- Awareness-raising, media training and educational curriculum development; anti-xenophobia campaigns and inter-faith training;
- Policy development; and
- Research and analysis projects aimed at improving existing migrant integration programmes.
Migrants who are integrated successfully into receiving societies have accumulated capital and acquired new knowledge and skills, and are often well-placed to contribute to the development of their countries of origin. With these goals in mind, IOM’s programmes encourage measures that support the participation of migrants in public life, such as their inclusion in consultative bodies at both the national and local levels and their engagement in civil society.
In the field of economic participation, IOM works to combat workplace and recruitment discrimination, not only through direct work with migrants, but also through interventions that raise the awareness of private sector employers. Programmes designed to promote social inclusion are implemented for the whole spectrum of migrant beneficiaries, including youth, unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers and resettled refugees. Practical, online resources and training sessions with selected experts in migrant education on diversity training and second-language theory have proven to be excellent ways of addressing the specific needs of migrant children and youth. IOM also works closely with migrant leaders, including with religious leaders, through interfaith trainings designed to empower community leaders in their role to promote the process of integration.
IOM’s presence, as of August 2016, in 401 field locations across more than 165 countries, allows for an integration continuum that links pre- and post-arrival activities for maximum effectiveness.
In order to address integration challenges, IOM’s partners include government agencies at national and local levels, employers, trade unions, educational institutions, media, ethnic community representatives, and migrant organizations. We offer technical support to these stakeholders through trainings, workshops, advisory services, and other capacity-building initiatives, drawing on a range of integration models and best practices gained through field experience.
IOM takes a comprehensive approach to migrant integration in order to ensure that migrants can fully engage with their host society from a socio-economic, political, and cultural perspective. Programmes are tailored to take into account migrant characteristics such as gender, age, duration of stay, and overall economic and societal trends in the receiving country. IOM draws from a wide variety of integration practices developed by national governments and builds on them for the benefit of other countries with similar goals. Most existing practices and models of successful integration are adapted from either European countries or traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, although the growing importance of South-South migration provides an opportunity for the development of practices that can respond to related integration challenges. Programmes are monitored regularly and their impact and relevance evaluated.