Policy area

Migration Policy

This is an analysis of how governments in origin and destination states manage the movement of people out of and into their countries, in particular migration for employment in low-paid sectors of the economy. In relation to origin states, it assesses whether outward migration is a policy priority, and if the government actively promotes domestic opportunities for its citizens, and in what way. For destination states, it considers the interplay between labour market characteristics - where businesses need or want to recruit migrant workers - and restrictive immigration policies designed to protect jobs for nationals, provide control to employers, and/or assuage domestic political concerns about demographic change. It also examines the extent to which the government regulates the migration process, and the extent to which it takes account of gender in the formulation of its migration policy. It should be noted that ILO and IOM standards on labour migration and recruitment provide limited guidance on national migration policy, which they largely consider to be the prerogative of states.

Migration policy

    Policy coherence (1.1)

    Under the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines on Fair Recruitment (Guideline 10.1), governments should "seek to assess labour market needs and ensure coherence between labour recruitment, migration, employment and other national policies, in recognition of the wide social and economic implications of labour recruitment and migration, and in order to promote decent work for all." Migrant workers may suffer as a result of incoherence between immigration policies and labour market realities. Origin states often see mass migration as a means of economic development and a way of mitigating the lack of productive employment opportunities in their domestic economies. For origin states, this indicator is an examination of the degree to which encouraging and supporting citizens to migrate for work is a central objective of the government, and the extent to which a strong focus on promoting work abroad can have impacts on workers’ protections. For destination states, it examines the sometimes awkward contradictions between labour market needs, with serious shortages in critical sectors of the economy, and popular concerns - sometimes stoked by political parties - about the rate of immigration and demographic change.

    Restrictions on migration (1.2)

    Some origin states have implemented bans on migrant workers taking up jobs in certain destination countries, and in many cases these bans are justified on the basis that they are there to protect workers’ rights.

    This indicator examines whether such bans are in place and the extent to which they enhance or undermine migrant workers’ rights.

    Government-to-Government (G2G) recruitment (1.3)

    The vast majority of the transnational recruitment of migrant workers is undertaken by the private sector, with governments typically confining their role to the regulation of the recruitment process and employment practices. However, some governments take a more active role and have a preference for what is known as government-to-government recruitment (G2G).

    There are a range of G2G recruitment models, but broadly speaking G2G means that many or all of the core process of recruitment - the screening, selection and matching of candidates to employers - are undertaken by government agencies, via processes agreed through bilateral mechanisms, rather than the private sector.

    This indicator examines the extent to which the governments under study are involved in and committed to G2G arrangements, and whether their involvement in the recruitment process has any observable impact for workers.

    Gender (1.4)

    States have an obligation under international human rights law to ensure that migrant workers do not face discrimination in their access to jobs on the basis of gender or gender identity, and that they are protected from specific risks that may result from their gender or gender identity.

    Gendered assumptions about who can or should work in particular economic sectors, traditional expectations of the roles of men and women within the family in origin states, and protection concerns for women in the migration cycle can all contribute to migrant workers’ vulnerability and exposure to abuses.

    This indicator analyses the extent to which governments factor in gender and gender identity into their migration policies.

    Visa process (1.5)

    The labour migration process and its attendant regulations can be highly complex, meaning that workers often rely on intermediaries to help them migrate for work, decreasing their agency, and increasing the opportunities for middlemen to extract money from workers.

    Complex procedures can also have the effect of making regular migration channels less attractive than informal, undocumented migration. In destination states, employers who want to avoid time-consuming bureaucratic processes associated with recruiting foreign workers, will often outsource recruitment and not always to reputable operators.

    This indicator examines the extent to which complex regulatory requirements, which are sometimes designed to protect workers, have any observable impact on migrant worker outcomes.

    Job mobility (1.6)

    In recent decades, temporary, or circular, migration, in which workers return to their home country after the completion of their contract, has come to be the most common form of labour migration.

    Temporary migration programmes often tie migrant workers to a single employer for the duration of their visa. Such policies restrict the job mobility of migrant workers and have been linked to human rights abuse in many countries.

    This indicator examines if it’s legally possible for migrant workers to change employers, how easy it is in practice, and the extent to which job mobility (or the lack of it) contributes to positive and negative outcomes for migrant workers.

    Residency and citizenship pathways (1.7)

    Some countries provide the opportunity for migrant workers to acquire permanent residency and/or citizenship, either securing this as a result of working for a certain number of years, or as an integral part of their initial recruitment.

    This indicator examines whether a pathway to citizenship, where it exists, has a positive impact on migrant worker outcomes.