A new report by the United Nations (UN)-body International Labour Organisation (ILO) has highlighted that the number of international migrant workers has risen globally to 169 million, an increase of three per cent since 2017.
The 2019 estimate of the report indicates an increase of five million migrant workers from the 2017 estimate of 164 million migrant workers and an increase of 12.7 per cent from the 2013 estimate of 150 million migrant workers.
“While globally migrant workers constitute 4.9 per cent of the labour force of destination countries, this figure is highest at 41.4 per cent in the Arab States. The labour force participation rate of migrants at 69.0 per cent is higher than the labour force participation of non-migrants at 60.4 per cent,” the report read.
Women constitute 41.5 per cent and men 58.5 per cent of migrant workers. The smaller share of women migrant workers is evident by their lower representation among international migrants (47.9 per cent) on one hand and their relatively lower labour market participation rate as compared to men (59.8 per cent vs. 77.5 per cent).
“The Arab States, Asia and the Pacific each host about 24 million migrant workers, while Africa has 13.7 million migrant workers, representing 8.1 per cent of the total,” as per the report.
“We have seen that in a number of regions migrant workers represent a sizeable share of the workforce; they are contributing of course to the economies and societies of their host countries, but also to their home countries through remittances,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department.
Despite their value to the global economy, the UN body warned that many migrant workers face uncertainty at work and their situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis has intensified these vulnerabilities, particularly for women migrant workers, as they are over-represented in low-paid and low-skilled jobs and have limited access to social protection and fewer options for support services,” according to the ILO study, which is based on data from 189 countries.
The ILO further pointed out substantial gender differences exist between the sectors with a higher number of women migrant workers in services including health and domestic work, partly due to growing labour demand for care workers.
The increased share of 15 to 24-year-old workers – from 8.3 per cent in 2017 to 10.0 per cent in 2019 – likely reflects high unemployment rates in many developing countries, and the rising demographic trend, the organisation said.
Highlighting the value to countries of compiling reliable statistics on their migrant labour workforce, ILO insisted that this would help them “respond to shifts in labour supply and demand, stimulate innovation and sustainable development, and transfer and update skills”.