KNOMAD  > Thematic working groups >  Low skilled labor migration

Low skilled labor migration




International low-skilled labor migration (such as construction workers, agricultural workers and  domestic helpers) is projected to increase over the medium- and long- term because of demographic changes (see thematic area 6), the growing need for workers in high-income and emerging countries, and the lack of decent work opportunities in sending countries.  Policies towards low-skilled migration are often controversial.  While some governments offer pre-departure seminars and disseminate information on potential dangers, few have the resources and expertise to do so effectively.  Efforts to expand legal migration opportunities through bilateral treaties cover only a very small fraction of potential migrants from sending countries. Immigration systems in most receiving countries often fail to stop irregular migrants, but the undocumented status of migrants forces them into poor working conditions and makes them vulnerable to abuse by employers (and in some cases traffickers).

This thematic working group will examine the implications of migration on household members and communities left behind in the countries of origin, evaluate issues relating to the governance of labor migration, such as protection of migrant workers (work conditions, wages, occupational safety and health in accordance with the international human rights and labor standards identified in the decisions of the thematic working group on migrant rights and social aspects of migration), temporary/circular migration schemes, and recruitment practices. Additionally, this thematic group will examine how these issues affect migrant workers and how the potential economic benefits of migration may be enhanced by supporting migrants in key labor markets and improving the flow of information.  This thematic group will also consider issues around the social protection of migrants (and the perceived burden on local governments), portability of benefits that can discourage, or encourage, mobility of migrants, education and employment policies, mobility partnerships, as well as labor shortages and the demand for migrant workers in different sectors and regions. The engagement of recruitment agencies, migrant groups,  trade unions, employers’ organizations, the private sector, government agencies and researchers will inform the efforts of the working group in conducting analysis from three perspectives: i) migrants ii) sending countries and iii) receiving countries.

Key Questions

  1. What is the appropriate mix of policies affecting low-skilled migration, both temporary and permanent?
  2. To what extent does regional integration affect low-skilled migration? What policies enhance the success of low-skilled migration?
  3. What are the developmental - economic and social - and policy implications of low-skilled migration in sending countries?

Planned Activities

  • Examine the impact of temporary migration on low-skilled migrant workers.
  • Analyze key policy issues in local governance and social incorporation.
  • Explore the  governance of low-skilled labor migration by:
    1. Organizing a meeting with a selection of country policy makers to pinpoint the main issues they face in the low-skilled labor migration  governance (MPC in Florence).
    2. Reviewing the literature to detect rigorous research results that serve to inform policy, and help close identified knowledge gaps.
    3. Bringing together policy makers to organize the elaboration of briefs, lessons, blogs, and to identify viable pilot projects.
    4. Finalizing the production of these policy inputs.
    5. Developing a social communication strategy.
  • Design Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) strategies.
  • Update NAS-PRC on the fiscal impact of skilled and low-skilled labor migration; perform similar analysis in other countries.
  • Review policies dealing with transit migration and asylum seekers when it is pertaining to low-skilled migration. Analyze the fiscal impact of low-skilled labor migration, as well as looking at concerns about labor market displacement, and other social and political issues.
  • Examine the impact of low-skilled migration by sector (agriculture, industry, and services), categories of workers, and region.
  • Assess perceptions of low-skilled labor migration in the receiving countries.
  • Look at how approaches to low-skilled labor migration have evolved under different regional agreements: NAFTA, ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, and MERCOSUR.
  • Review existing bilateral and multilateral agreements on social security and health insurance collaboration. Evaluate the effectiveness of language training, financial literacy programs and information about the destination country prior to the decision to migrate.
  • Analyze the impact on families left behind (women, children, and the elderly).
  • Examine the effect on social security and retirement programs of returning migrants.