Labour Migration

Quick Facts

105 million
Number of persons working in a country other than their country of birth

USD 440 billion
Total earnings of migrant workers in 2011

USD 350 billion
Remittances sent to developing countries in 2011

Number of countries benefiting from IOM labour migration programmes

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’s Vision

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.

IOM’s Objectives

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.

Principal Beneficiaries

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.

IOM’s Approach

Through its global network of more than 440 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.