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Enhancing effective management of labour migration in a COVID-19 environment

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Notwithstanding the effects of the global pandemic as a threat to public health, economic and social disruptions, businesses and indeed employers grappled with challenges of the continued existence and reinventing themselves in the world of work. 
 
Indeed, the pandemic escalated vulnerabilities of labour migrants to abuse of human and labour rights as well as victimisation and unfair/unethical recruitment processes arising from desperation.

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Estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), indicated migrant workers rose to 169 million globally in 2019. The gender distribution revealed that 68.1 million or approximately 41.6 per cent were female.
 
In addressing fair labour distribution, the ILO convened a training workshop organised within the framework of the fairway project as a component of a wider response strategy towards enhancing the effectiveness of employers’ organisations, Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) in the area of labour migration amid the context of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
 
Director, ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala, said the capacity building workshop was to understand the key advocacy initiative that institutions such as Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) could use to support fair recruitment processes and manage illegal migration and trafficking of persons.

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She said the project would make a better understanding of illegal migration and how best to respond as a country.

According to her, the workshop was to see how businesses and employers respond to the impacts of COVID-19 within the context of labour migration with critical engagement areas for stakeholders at the national level. 
   
She stressed that it was in reference to commitment demonstrated by Nigeria in the existence of labour migration policy and legal frameworks and mechanisms that aimed to provide effective labour migration engagement for a wide array of stakeholders.

She said: “It took into cognisance challenges and solutions relating to the future of decent and fair recruitment practice measures for migrant workers including recommendations for future engagement.

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“The project conceptualised the delivery of targeted training to enhance capacity among employers’ organisations including PEAs to enable them to contribute to the overall national response that supports returning migrants affected by the pandemic to reintegrate into the national labour market,” she said.
 
The training supported employers’ organisations to adapt advocacy efforts on labour migration to the context of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
 
It enhanced employers’ awareness of emerging dynamics in labour mobility, fair recruitment and the future of work in the post-pandemic era.
 
The training also strengthened the capacity of employers to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and engage in best practices that protects the rights of migrant workers.

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In an address delivered by the President of the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), Remi Adegboyega called for the need to look at the migration of workers from the rural area to the urban part of the country.
 
He reiterated HuCaPAN’s vision to always uphold relevant ILO Conventions on fair and ethical recruitment 

The report on the 169m global migrants, tagged ‘ILO Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers: Results and Methodology’, showed that in 2019, international migrant workers constituted nearly five per cent of the global labour force, making them an integral part of the world economy.
     
Yet many migrant workers are often in temporary, informal or unprotected jobs, which expose them to a greater risk of insecurity, layoffs and worsening working conditions.

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The report noted that 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.
   
Commenting on the findings, the Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, Manuela Tomei said: “The pandemic has exposed the precariousness of their situation. Migrant workers are often first to be laid-off, they experience difficulties in accessing treatment and they are often excluded from national COVID-19 policy responses.”
     
Indeed, more than two-thirds of international migrant workers are concentrated in high-income countries. Of the 169 million international migrant workers, 63.8 million (37.7 per cent) are in Europe and Central Asia. Another 43.3 million (25.6 per cent) are in the Americas. Hence, collectively, Europe and Central Asia and the Americas host 63.3 per cent of all migrant workers.
     
The Arab States, and Asia and the Pacific each host about 24 million migrant workers, which, in total, corresponding to 28.5 per cent of all migrant workers. In Africa, there are 13.7 million migrant workers, representing 8.1 per cent of the total.

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The report finds that the majority of migrant workers – 99 million – are men, while 70 million are women.
   
It stated that women face more socio-economic obstacles as migrant workers and are more likely to migrate as accompanying family members for reasons other than finding work. They can experience gender discrimination in employment and may lack networks, making it difficult to reconcile work and family life in a foreign country.
     
According to the report, 66.2 per cent of migrant workers are in services, 26.7 per cent in industry and 7.1 per cent in agriculture.
     
“Labour migration policies will be effective only if they are based on strong statistical evidence. This report offers sound estimations, based on robust methods and reliable data integrating harmonized complementary sources. These policies can then help countries respond to shifts in labour supply and demand, stimulate innovation and sustainable development, and transfer and update skills,” Rafael Diez de Medina, Chief Statistician and Director of the ILO Department of Statistics added.

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