Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South

  • DATE / TIME:
    2023•01•24    10:30 - 12:30

    Drawing on evidence from a recently published Dejusticia book entitled Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South, this hybrid roundtable brought together representatives from the UN system, Members States, International Organizations and civil society to examine the challenges of ensuring that migrants in the Global South have both the right to work and decent working conditions.

    The second in a series of UNU-CPR migration policy roundtables, the event focused on policy and practice efforts aimed at:

    • Ensuring that migrants, including refugees, have access to the labour market;
    • Reducing poor working conditions, insecurity, and discrimination; and
    • Identifying remedies for exploitation, forced labour, and wage theft.


    The event was organized by the UN University Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR) in partnership with Dejusticia and the MIDEQ Hub. We are grateful to the Baha’i International Community to the UN for the use of their venue and facilities.


    Professor Heaven Crawley, Head, Equitable Development and Migration, UNU-CPR, and Director, MIDEQ Hub

    Opening presentation

    Lucía Ramirez Bolívar, Dejusticia, Colombia and co-author of Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South provided an overview of the study’s key findings and implications for policy.


    Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

    Michelle Leighton, Chief, Labour Migration Branch, ILO

    Sarah Mehta, Head of International Projects, Migrant Justice Institute

    Paola Simonetti, Director, Equality Department, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

    Date and time

    Tuesday 24th January 10.30-12.30 EST


    Baha’i International Community to the UN, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120, New York, NY 10017


    According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 90 per cent of international migration today is bound up in the world of work: an estimated 169 million of the 272 million people living outside their countries of birth or citizenship in 2019 were economically active (ILO, 2021). That comprises most working-age people in the migrant population, including refugees and asylum seekers, as well as persons migrating for family reunification. These estimates do not include short-term or seasonal migrants, for whom no global figures are available. Increased labor migration is a feature of contemporary globalization, which includes universalization of the capitalist mode of production and accumulation but not necessarily control or responsibility for its costs and consequences.

    A growing proportion of migrants, particularly those who are in manual or semi-skilled sectors of the labour market, face significant difficulties in accessing ‘decent work’ in host countries. This includes those migrating between the countries of the Global South, some of which have weak or developing economies and problems with job creation, which can force many people —not just migrants— to engage in precarious work and put themselves at risk of labor exploitation. Migrant experiences of the labour market include low wages, poor working conditions, a virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom of association and workers’ rights, discrimination and xenophobia, as well as social exclusion. In a significant number of cases, unemployment rates, job security, and wages differ between regular migrant workers and national workers. The lack of opportunities for decent work undermines the contribution of migration to delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and impedes migrants’ integration into host societies. It can be associated with human rights abuses and even death.