International Migrants Day: migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are welcome

This International Migrants Day, 18 December, 2022, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) calls on governments to uphold their commitments to respect migrant workers’ rights and increase their efforts to foster inclusion.

“We say once again that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are welcome. Trade unions globally demand safe haven, the right to work and equal treatment for everyone and, furthermore, that no person should be forced to migrate,” said Owen Tudor, ITUC Deputy General Secretary.

The number of migrants across the world reached 281 million in 2020, or 3.6% of the world’s population, including many people forced from their homes by the impacts of climate change. In 2019, the ILO estimated that among international migrants, 169 million were workers.

Migrant workers are more likely to be concentrated in low-paid, precarious, informal work and, therefore, excluded from any form of social protection. This is especially the case for migrant women, who are overrepresented in the informal economy, particularly in the care and domestic sectors.

“We need a rights-based approach to migration that provides migrant workers with opportunities for decent work and effective access to all their rights, which is designed and implemented through social dialogue with labour standards at the forefront,” added Owen Tudor.

Trade unions reaffirm that a worker is a worker, regardless of their migration status and call for a New Social Contract with six critical demands that put people and environment at the centre:

  1. Creation of climate-friendly jobs with Just Transition. The ITUC is calling for 575 million new, decent jobs by 2030 and the formalisation of at least one billion informal jobs. Investment in the care economy is at the heart of demands for job creation and formalisation, as migrant workers are over represented in this sector.
  2. Rights for all workers regardless of their employment or immigration status, including maximum working hours and health and safety at work.
  3. Wage justice including a minimum living wage for all workers.
  4. Universal social protection with the establishment of a Social Protection Fund for the least wealthy countries.
  5. Equality, such as by race, gender and migration status to end all discrimination.
  6. Inclusion through a rights-based development model realised through the promise of the SDGs.

“Systematic violations of migrant workers’ rights include rampant wage theft. Minimum living wages are critical for all workers and especially for migrant workers. Decent work for migrant workers cannot be achieved without this, along with universal social protection and the fundamental right of occupational health and safety at the workplace,” Owen Tudor continued.

Migrants are made vulnerable to exploitation by limited duration work permits, circular – temporary and seasonal – migration programmes, and unregulated recruitment agencies. These practices also prevent their social and economic inclusion in the long term.

To help protect migrant workers from abusive employment practice, the ITUC supports the website Recruitment Advisor that provides information about recruitment agencies and workers’ rights.

Governments must increase opportunities for migrant workers to regularise their status while also investing in regular migration pathways, with full workers’ rights and non-discrimination. Above all, governments need to ensure freedom of association, the right to organise and collectively bargain as indispensable foundations to ensure decent work for all.