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Migrant workers and challenges of job creation

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Migrant workers SOURCE: UN / AFP / MAHMUD TURKIA

Human beings are nomadic by nature and always in search of conducive atmosphere for enhanced standard of living.

While movements are no longer solely influenced by climatic conditions, migration of persons are driven more by work opportunities and a safe environment where individuals can realise their life ambitions and expansion of employability prospects.

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Indeed, today, there are few African countries not participating in migration flows, whether as countries of origin, transit or destination. Demand in economic sectors such as agriculture, fishing, mining and construction as well as services such as domestic work, health care, cleaning, restaurants and hotels, and retail trade are significant drivers within the continent. African migrants, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced persons often use the same migration routes.

The African Union’s 2015 report on Labour Migration Statistics in Africa highlighted that international migration in Africa is large across Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and that the labour force participation rate of international migrants in Africa seems to be higher than that of the general population representing the highest 93.3% for Mauritius to the lowest (71.7%) for Ghana.

While it is certain that migrants contribute to the economic development of host countries, such contributions to the economy depend on their job and working conditions.

The challenge that confronts the world is how specific measures to counter exploitation, abuse and discrimination in the labour market and at the workplace can be discouraged.

Global agenda on migration is no longer stopping it, but how to make it part of the national, sub-regional and continental economic and social African development strategy. This entails strengthening labour market institutions to better govern intra-regional labour mobility, promoting fair recruitment processes, extending social protection to migrant workers and their families, addressing root causes of migration in selected migration prone areas affected by climate change, developing social dialogue and cooperation on the governance of labour migration and improving skills recognition and portability.

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The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said maximising the benefits of labour migration for migrant workers and their families as well as minimizing its risks and social costs requires fair and effective labour migration governance.

“Well-governed labour migration can contribute to sustainable development for countries of origin, transit and destination, and can provide benefits and opportunities for migrant workers and their families. It can balance labour supply and demand, help develop and transfer skills at all levels, contribute to social protection systems, foster innovation and enrich communities both culturally and socially,” it noted.

It further noted that on the contrary, poorly governed labour migration can bring risks and challenges, including for sustainable development and decent work, in countries of origin, transit and destination, especially for low-wage workers.

The identified risks include insecurity and informality, brain drain, displacement, increased risk of child labour, debt bondage, forced labour, trafficking in persons, safety and health hazards and other decent work deficits. In some cases, some of these risks have lethal consequences.

Undeniably, racism, xenophobia and discrimination, misperceptions and misinformation add to the overall fragility challenges migrant workers can encounter during their labour migration experience.

The global labour watch body observed that making the most of labour migration entails developing a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the short-term as well as the long-term labour market needs for migrant workers at all levels of skills and providing migrant workers with the necessary labour and social protection.

It also warned that failure to do so negatively affects productivity and competitiveness and can contribute to segmented labour markets.

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Positioning Nigeria strategically to benefit maximally from what migration can offer the country, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment said steps are being taken to ratify ILO Convention 143 – Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) of 1975.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Yerima Peter Tarfa, stated this in Abuja during the flag-off of a two-day national sensitization workshop on the ratification of Conventions 143.

Tarfa disclosed that Conventions 143 would promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

He said the ratification of Convention 143 would strengthen “Government’s capacity and cooperation efforts to protect migrant workers, enhance remittance flow and optimize the benefits of organised labour migration in Nigeria.”

The Permanent Secretary further disclosed that Convention 143, “seeks to ensure respect for the basic human rights of migrant workers, including migrant workers in an irregular situation, and prevent irregular migration. Consequently, the non-ratification of Convention 143 is affecting government capacity to effectively promote good governance of organised labour migration management in the country.”

He added that when ratified, Convention 181 would help develop, “the appropriate economic and legal environment in which all players in the private employment agencies industry follow the same rules and get an equal opportunity to operate.”

Tarfa noted that preparatory to its ratification, Nigeria had already domesticated some of the major provisions of Convention 181 into national laws and policies.

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According to him: “Sections 23 — 48 and 71 of the Labour Act Cap Ll 2004 contain detailed provisions on regulating operations of PEAS as required by the Convention. Further, the National Employment Policy and the National Policy on Labour Migration contain detailed provisions on the regulation of Private Employment Agencies in line with the Convention.”

Tarfa disclosed that the workshop would acquaint participants with steps already taken by the government to incorporate the provisions of those Conventions into national labour legislation, policies and administrative guidelines.

He added that participants would also be informed of their obligations upon ratification of the Convention, and would also be required to contribute to the rendition of the first report on the application of the conventions one year after ratification.

Also, the Director, Employment and Wages Department of the Ministry, John Nyamali, noted that a sensitization workshop was a requirement for the ratification of ILO Conventions, as the Member States were required to consult the social partners before the ratification of Conventions.

Nyamali disclosed that the workshop was organised to sensitize the stakeholders on the provisions of the two conventions and “the reporting obligations contained in the Constitution of the ILO.

He stated that the workshop would allow the participants to go through the Conventions meticulously, and to anticipate actions that would be required to domesticate the provisions of the Conventions once ratified.

Director, ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala, stated that ILO remained committed to supporting the Federal Government of Nigeria in the processes involved in the ratification of the conventions, providing required expertise and resources.

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