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Migration of young people for employment

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Migration of young people for employment

Posted by Niall O'Higgins at July 23. 2010

Although not generally included in the standard range of ALMPs for young people, policies aimed at facilitating migration may play a useful role in helping young people find decent work.

Migration for employment - both at intra- and inter-national levels - is extensive in Asia and the Pacific.  UN estimates put the number of  migrant workers at around  90 million globally, and in Asia the number of migrant workers is estimated at around 25 million with around 3 million Asian workers leaving their home countries to work abroad every year. The majority of these migrants are young people.

Migration occurs because there are – potentially at least - benefits to be had by both migrant workers and their families – in terms of higher incomes, and employers in migrant receiving countries. The management of migratory movements, not just in terms of policing, but in attempting to ensure that such migration is beneficial to all those involved, is a major issue of itself and the ILO has been active in Asia & the Pacific in this field in recent years, undertaking a number of projects with the overall aim of seeking to ensure that labour migration leads to decent work. (see ).

I think it reasonable that programmes that promote the movement of young workers from one country to another – as with the example given by Shaun Kennedy on the agreement between New Zealand and Vanuatu –with the purpose, from the point-of-view of the sending country, of increasing the employment opportunities for young people, be seen as an ALMP for young people for the purposes of this forum. 

Typically, workers from relatively low income low productivity countries with few employment opportunities move to relatively high wage high productivity countries which are experiencing labour shortages. In a competitive environment, the net overall benefits are bound to exceed the costs, however, this is not necessarily the case of individual countries or workers. In general, receiving countries benefit from a better allocation of resources with overall increased productivity and output, whilst some of these benefits are typically redistributed to sending countries through remittances and, at least potentially, through the greater skills levels, and therefore productivity of migrants once they return to their home countries.

In any event experiences with such programmes are welcome and perhaps Shaun could go into more detail about the Vanuatu programme? Is there more detailed documentary evidence reporting the effects for example? Moreover, how is the programme monitored in order to ensure that working conditions are maintained? Is there training involved. One way in which migration programmes can have more lasting benefits to the participants is through the acquisition of skills which can then be utilised by migrants on their return to the home country.

Re: Migration of young people for employment

Posted by Max Tunon at July 26. 2010

Hi Niall and Shaun,


I agree with the premise that policies to promote labour migration should be considered ALMPs. The most prominent case is the Philippines, where there is a backlash from certain quarters against the overdependence on migration and remittances. Less well-known are the developments in Viet Nam, where the Government has aggressively and successfully promoted labour migration in recent years.


The number of Vietnamese contract-based overseas workers increased from 300,000 in 2005 to 500,000 in 2009 – approximately 35% of whom are women. The Government has set a target of 1 million. This dramatic increase is very much associated with the pressure to create jobs for the annual intake of between 1.1 and 1.5 million young people in the labour force, which threatens higher unemployment and underemployment. Migration has not only eased unemployment pressures, but Vietnamese workers overseas remit between USD1.6 and 2bn each year.


The Vietnamese Government is looking to enhance the quality of the workforce and increase the ratio of trained workers, not only for the domestic market, but also for overseas employment. The skills levels and the work ethic make Vietnamese migrant workers attractive to employers in over 40 countries and territories. But as with most other countries of origin, there is little evidence that migrants invest the money earned and skills honed abroad to productive use. Instead, the remittances are used for consumptive purposes, and future employment plans involve re-migration.


But such an aggressive migration policy has its problems. For example, in many sending communities the supply of women and men interested in migration is shrinking. Local brokers sub-contracted by recruitment agencies are paid on commission for each migrant they enlist, which offers a clear incentive for them to lie about future earning potential and working conditions. In the last couple of weeks, there have been two separate incidents in Cambodia where young people have changed their minds about migrating, but have been locked up until they can repay the costs already incurred by the recruitment agency. 


To counter the ‘false promises’ of brokers and traffickers, there are good practices in China, Indonesia and the Philippines of how pre-employment orientation seminars in schools, job fairs and in community centers can help young women and men make informed decisions about whether they should migrate and how to do so safely. In communities with high migrant populations, pre-employment/pre-departure training has been incorporated into the curricula of schools and vocational training institutions.


Looking forward to further discussion and sharing of experiences,


Re: Migration of young people for employment

Posted by Niall O'Higgins at July 29. 2010

The management of labour migration as a whole is quite a big area of itself - and as you know Max there was a Discussion forum on that (to which I would refer also those interested in this area). As you say, one of the problems is the ethical (or not) behaviour of those involved in what are essentially - for them - market transactions. I know that in Indonesia there is a also a major problem with conflicts of interest. Many officials in the Ministry of Labour and public employment services also have their own (or are involved with) agencies set up to facilitate emigration including the training of prospective emigrants.

I suppose one major issue related to this concerning migration policies as ALMPs is the underlying quesiton of job quality and guarantees to that effect - and the incentives structure as you note of people involved in the 'business' of promoting migration.

Another issue is how to encourage the use of remittances for investment - and specifically to start businesses - rather than for consumption purposes. It is by no means automatic that this happens, although as Shaun pointed out, the sums accrued over periods abroad would allow returninig migrants to bypass credit difficulties. In Indonesia, the ILO has some small sacale initiatives supporting this, mainly around the  provision of training for business start-up, but in the specific case of Vanuatu, I wonder whether some additional advantages such as tax credits and/or simplifying business registration and other procedures - in addition to SYB type training - might be supportive of this process. There is quite extensive experience in this area withiin the ILO, as well as outside it. I wonder whether we mght here some more detailed information on that?



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