Much needed dialogue on “International and Regional Labor Mobility and its Impact on Development”.

Date/Location: Friday, 7 June 2013; Conference Room B (CB)

Speakers: Michelle Layton, Ahmed al-Jarman, Catrina Tapley, Michelle Layton, Professor Philip Martin, Fahd Ahmed

Attended By: Iman Yashruti, Norah L. Crossnohere, Sunny T.C. Hor, Mary C.Y. Lam, Janice H.W. Wong.

Written By: Iman Yashruti

Issues such as labor mobility must be better managed as the number of migrants continues to grow in volume and complexity remained a prevalent theme throughout today’s meeting. There are 900 million immigrants on the planet today, meaning one out of every seven people is a migrant. According to Ahmed al-Jarman, the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, there are more than 17 million contracted workers within the GCC countries. The total remittance in the Arab Gulf states is 80 billion US dollars annually (the fifth highest in global remittances), making migration an important topic in the UAE. The UAE believes in the need to recognize labor mobility as an important engine for economic development.

Michelle Layton, the first panelist, started by sharing the reasons for migration, focusing on youth migration. Agricultural degradation, water scarcity, low investment in business, and the rising unemployment rate are all reasons for migration. High unemployment rates among the young (e.g., 62% in Greece) leads to migration in search of better economic opportunities. This not only helps the economy in the migrant’s native country, but also the economy of the host country. In turn, the host country tends to view these migrants as commodities instead of addressing their needs. The International Labor Organization has been created to protect both men and women migrant workers and assist with their needs.

Recruitment, Remittances, and Return are the three R’s of migration. Professor Philip Martin, the second panelist, believes that an important element in improving the management of migration is through recruitment. Migration is costly in terms of finances, opportunities, and the social realm. Because of this, international conventions usually require employers to pay the financial costs of recruitment. However, employers will often pay recruitment costs for highly-skilled workers and leave low-skilled workers to pay for themselves. As a result there is a need to incentivize good recruitment behavior and subsidize multinational recruiters.

The last panelist, Fahd Ahmed, discussed the lives of those who migrate. He exposed the harsh conditions migrants face every day. Most migrants get paid low-wages and face harassment. Their children also face this harsh reality, as the schools they attend are over populated and some drop out in high school in order to help support their families. In 2012, there was a cross industry report on migrants released containing the following astonishing data:

  • 47% of the respondents earned less than minimum wage
  • 75% of domestic workers were not allowed any breaks
  • 94% did not receive health care
  • 75% were not allowed sick days

Fahd Ahmed ended the discussion by stating that policies on migration must be made so the voices of the migrants themselves can be heard and their lives improved.

Edited by Wayne Dean Doyle

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