World – ILO report finds number of migrant workers increasing, but share of women decreasing

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The International Labour Organisation estimates that 164 million people worldwide are migrant workers, a rise of 9% since 2013, when they numbered 150 million.

The ILO’s report, Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers , which covers the period between 2013 and 2017, found that the majority of migrant workers – 96 million – are men, while 68 million are women. This represents an increase in the share of men among migrant workers, from 56% to 58%, and a decrease by two percentage points in women’s share, from 44% to 42%.

“While growing numbers of women have been migrating autonomously in search of employment in the past two decades, the discrimination they often face because of their gender and nationality reduces their employment opportunities in destination countries compared to their male peers,” Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department.
Nearly 87% of migrant workers are between 25 and 64 years old. This suggests that some countries of origin are losing the most productive segment of their workforce. The report adds that this could have a negative impact on their economic growth.

Of the 164 million migrant workers worldwide, approximately 111.2 million (67.9%) live in high-income countries, 30.5 million (18.6%) in upper middle-income countries, 16.6 million (10.1%) in lower middle-income countries and 5.6 million (3.4%) in low-income countries.

Migrant workers constitute 18.5% of the workforce of high-income countries, but only 1.4% to 2.2% in lower-income countries. From 2013 to 2017, the concentration of migrant workers in high-income countries fell from 74.7% to 67.9%, while their share in upper middle-income countries increased. This could be attributed to the economic development of the latter.

The report also found that approximately 61% of migrant workers are found in three sub-regions; 23.0% in North America, 23.9% in Northern, Southern and Western Europe and 13.9% in the Arab countries. Other regions that host large numbers of migrant workers – above 5% – include Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, and Central and Western Asia. In contrast, Northern Africa hosts less than 1% of migrant workers.

“International labour migration is a rising policy priority and there is a need to respond equitably to the interests of countries of origin and countries of destination, as well as to the interests of migrant workers,” Rafael Diez de Medina, Chief Statistician and Director of the ILO Department of Statistics, said.

The ILO added that it is planning to produce global estimates on international migrant workers on a regular basis.


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