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ILO: Number of Migrant Workers Grows

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A foreign worker climbs scaffolding at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, May 4, 2015.

FILE - A foreign worker climbs scaffolding at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, May 4, 2015.

A new study by the International Labor Organization finds migrant workers account for more than 150 million of the estimated 232 million people who migrate every year to countries around the world.

Migration and migrants are headline news these days, and not all the reports are flattering. The International Labor Organization says government policy debates regarding migration often are divisive and based on inaccurate information.

Authors of the report say they hope to set the record straight by presenting reliable evidence on the true nature of migration. A just issued ILO report is based on data from 176 countries and territories representing nearly 100 percent of the working age population, which includes those 15 years and older.

The report finds a majority of migrant workers are men, but women account for 44 percent, a significant proportion of the working force. It says labor migration occurs in all regions of the world, but most people head for high-income countries in Northern America, and northern, southern and western Europe in search of work. It adds more than one-third of all migrant workers are in the Arab states.

The report focuses on migrants who are currently employed or unemployed and seeking work. It recognizes the problem of so-called irregular migration, but has no numbers as such migrants live largely in the shadows of society and don’t appear in national statistics.

The ILO says the vast majority of migrant workers are in the services sectors, followed by industry, including manufacturing and construction. It finds 7.7 percent of all migrant workers are domestic workers, with 80 percent of them women.

The report is putting a special focus on migrant domestic workers because it is one of the least regulated sectors of the economy.

ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department Director Manuela Tomei says domestic workers provide services in private households where they are exposed to labor exploitation and serious abuses.

“In many countries, domestic work is not regarded as work and, therefore, irrespective of who is performing domestic work, nationals or migrants, that person does not benefit from the protection of labor laws, social security regimes and all the machinery that ensures compliance with the law," said Tomei.

The International Labor Organization says migrants need work, but many destination economies also need migrant workers, and this need will increase in the coming years.

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