Every economy needs mobile workers. Globalisation has strengthened such developments, which can be seen all around the world. The SDC is committed to ensuring that economic migration takes place within a sound legal and social framework.
The SDC’s primary objective is to improve the protection of migrant workers. It also aims to maximise the benefits of economic migration for migrant workers and their dependants, thereby also contributing to the development of their countries of origin.
The SDC focuses on the following five aspects:
- improved access to justice and other services, both for migrants and for their dependants in their countries of origin
- preparation for temporary migration, as well as assistance with reintegration when migrants return home
- Better protection for labour migrants in recruitment processes (mediation and hiring)
- compliance with standards governing working conditions under the Decent Work Agenda and support for governments when they come to implement the relevant legal framework
- stronger political dialogue between countries of origin and destination
The SDC is especially active in regions where labour migration is a significant economic and social factor, such as South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
People generally leave their homeland in search of a secure income and in the hope of achieving greater prosperity and security. Almost half of such economic migrants are women. Every year, more than 1 million workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka migrate to the Gulf States and the Middle East. Employment agencies play an important role in this process. Very few of those migrants have a clear and realistic idea of the living and working conditions that await them in their host country. This information is often unavailable or is deliberately withheld. This can result in migrants being exploited or finding themselves enslaved in inhuman conditions.
Economic migration contributes to the economic and social development of both countries of origin and destination. The work done by migrants benefits not only the workers themselves, their families and their countries of origin, but also their countries of destination. Migration leads to the transfer of money, goods, knowledge and ideas. Often, though, migration is not a one-way journey: migrants often return home, and the knowledge, capital and international experience that they take with them supports the development of their countries of origin.
In many host countries, migrants are among the most vulnerable sections of society. They often have no rights and have to endure poor working and living conditions. Although international standards for the protection of migrant workers exist, they are often ignored. In many cases, debts owed to recruitment agencies are an additional burden. Indeed, the brokerage fee for a job abroad can be many times the migrant’s monthly wage.
Global economic imbalances often result in large numbers of qualified workers leaving developing countries and never returning. This "brain drain" can hinder the development of the migrants’ homeland, a problem that is particularly acute in the health sector.
However, the international mobility of workers and job-seekers can be a development opportunity for all concerned. To make the most of this potential, there is a need for closer international cooperation, regulatory measures in both countries of origin and destination, and a willingness to grant migrants their rights.