Labour migration

Labour migration, including women’s migration

Migration today is bound up with the world of work. Women and men use labour migration as a livelihood strategy, often due to the lack of opportunities for full employment and decent working conditions in their countries of origin. The latter are generally confronted with the dilemma of how to support overseas employment while at the same time protecting their nationals who are working abroad.

Good governance of migration and international cooperation and dialogue are paramount to safeguard the rights of migrant workers and address other policy challenges linked to labour migration such as: promoting employment, retention of crucial skills, promoting and protecting the wellbeing of migrant workers, and maximizing the developmental impact of migration. All international labour standards apply to migrant workers, unless otherwise stated. Further, the formulation and implementation of policies are likely to be more effective when they are based upon extensive consultation with a diverse range of actors such as workers’ and employers’ organizations, migrants associations and other civil society organizations.

Monitoring is essential for enforcing decent working conditions and equality of treatment for migrant workers. Labour inspections in the sectors and workplaces where migrant workers are concentrated are thus crucial. Targeted labour market policies, both towards prospective migrants and return migrants, can play an important role in enhancing linkages between migration and development. These policies can include vocational and skills training, educational programmes, job search assistance, and recognition of newly acquired skills of return migrants.

Women constitute approximately half of all international migrants. There are important differences in the factors that drive the migration of women, as opposed to men, and in their experience as migrants, which policies need to reflect. Women more often than men hold jobs that leave them unprotected by laws that cover other workers. Hence, it is important to guide policy making with gender-differentiated information, based on the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data. Countries should adopt measures that ensure that their labour legislation and social laws and regulations cover all migrant workers, both male and female, including domestic workers and other vulnerable groups. Guidelines on human trafficking should pay particular attention to women.


Thank you for your interest in the Global Migration Group.

Please be advised that following extensive system-wide consultations and the proposal by the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, the UN Secretary-General decided, at a meeting of the Executive Committee on 23 May 2018, to establish a UN Network on Migration, as a successor to the Global Migration Group, to ensure effective, coordinated system-wide support to the implementation of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


The UN Network on Migration can be contacted via its Secretariat at [email protected]