There are an estimated 169 million persons (ILO, 2021) working in countries other than their country of birth. Despite the efforts made to ensure the protection of migrant workers, many remain vulnerable and are exposed to significant risks including health 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.

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 and ageing populations, orderly and well-managed labour migration can lighten labour scarcity and facilitate mobility and add to the human capital stock.

To address the health of migrant workers and their families and to optimize the benefits of labour migration for both the country of origin and destination as well as for the migrants themselves, clearly formulated policies across relevant sectors, legislation and effective strategies in line with standards on the protection of labour migrants are needed.

In addition, health worker migration in response to the global shortage of health professionals, demands dedicated effective management, including health systems capacity building in source countries, promotion of good practices and prevention of negative effects of health worker migration.

Through its Migration Health Division (MHD), IOM operates in three areas of concern, addressing the health of labour migrants as well as the health of their families left behind, and the migration of health workers.