Search for Work and Workers at Heart of Migration in This Century, Says IOM’s World Migration Report 2008

Date Publish: 
Monday, December 1, 2008 - 16:00

People are becoming increasingly mobile within and across borders
to meet the social and economic challenges of globalization with
the search for employment at the heart of most movement in the 21st
century, says the World Migration Report (WMR) 2008 launched today
by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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The report, focusing on the theme of Managing Labour Mobility in
the Evolving Global Economy, argues that demands for increased
efficiency in production as a response to fierce global competition
has meant that workers, independent of their geographical location,
are increasingly living in an inter-connected world of work,
resulting in greater labour mobility.

With more than 200 million international migrants in the world
today, two and a half times the number in 1965, and most States
simultaneously being countries of migrant origin, transit and
destination, WMR 2008 states that human mobility has become a life
choice driven by disparities in demography, income and employment
opportunities across and within regions.

"The international community made some very important choices in
the last century to facilitate the development of the global
economy by allowing the free movement of capital, goods and
services. The inevitable consequence of that choice is human
mobility on an unprecedented global scale. But for all countries,
matching the subsequent supply and demand in an international
labour market remains a critical challenge," says Gervais Appave,
Co-Editor of the WMR 2008.

These pressures for labour mobility, the report predicts, are
set to increase in a world where industrialized countries, already
competing for highly skilled migrants, are also in short-supply of
much needed, though often less accepted, low and semi-skilled
workers. This has been largely due to an increasing scarcity of
local workers available or willing to engage in low or semi-skilled
employment such as in agriculture, construction, hospitality or
domestic care. Within the next 50 years, these countries will
experience even greater shortages as birth rates fall and the
working population age, leaving twice as many people over 60 years
of age than children.

The current supply imbalance in the global labour force is also
expected to worsen, according to the report. Demographic trends
show that the working age population of Africa alone is expected to
triple from 408 million in 2005 to 1.12 billion in 2050 while one
study claims that China and India are projected to account for 40
per cent of the global workforce by 2030. The working age
population in developed countries, however, is expected to decline
by 23 per cent by 2050 without immigration (UNDESA, 2006).

Mindful of the adverse effects of too much out-migration on
their economies and societies, the reports says job creation at
home remains the priority of most migrant origin and developing
countries. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments are
complementing this strategy by seeking opportunities for their
workers on the international labour market to help develop their

"What we are witnessing in countries of varying levels of
development is a re-emergence of low and semi-skilled temporary
labour migration programmes in a bid to square the needs of an
economy and a labour market while minimizing any political
backlashes to increases in migration," says Ryszard Cholewinski,
Co-Editor of the WMR 2008. "However, this strategy can only work if
there is a complementary vision to develop the human resources of
any labour force and to adequately protect the rights of migrant
workers participating in such programmes."

The priority for any country and for the global economy as a
whole is to have planned and predictable ways of matching labour
demand with supply in safe, legal and humane ways, WMR 2008

Crucially, such an approach would ensure the fundamental human
security of migrants through their better economic and social
protection in work and in life. This protection would not only
encompass migrants but automatically their families, whether they
have migrated too or remained behind.

For developed countries, clearly aware that labour market
dynamics are increasingly operating across international borders,
the challenge will be in adopting planned, flexible, "front-door"
labour migration policies that meet their own individual labour and
skills needs.

"These types of policies are especially important during
downturns in the global economy such as the one we are witnessing
today. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990's showed that even in
times of economic hardship, there is still a structural need for
migrants," Appave argues. "The world is on the move, there is no
turning away from that. If we harness that mobility through
policies addressing both human and economic needs, many of the
migration anomalies of the past can be overcome and we would see
real progress when we talk about global development," he

To access the full report please go to "paragraph-link-no-underline" href=
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