International Professional Labour Mobility Forum
Statement delivered by the Chief of Mission of IOM at the International Labour Mobility Forum held in Accra.
It is a real pleasure for me to say a few words on the occasion of this International Labour Mobility Forum. I would like to commend the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations for organizing such a timely and important event. IOM is very pleased to have been able to support in this worthwhile endeavor. Our support was made through the “Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa” (FMM West Africa) co-funded by the European Union and ECOWAS and I would like to thank both partners for their contribution to better migration governance throughout West Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, the forum is very timely, and for a lot of reasons but let me just state 5 of them as my contribution to setting the scene as we start our day together.
First, as you all probably remember, last December in Marrakesh, many countries in the world came together to adopt the Global Compact for safe and orderly Migration. Labour migration of course is addressed in the Compact under the preamble as well in 4 objectives. Objectives 5, 6, 18 and 22. Across these objectives the Compact calls for action in the areas of regular migration channels, fair and ethical recruitment, decent work for migrants, skills development and recognition of qualifications across countries, as well as the portability of social security entitlements and other benefits. These are objectives that resonate well with SDG 8 which in Target 8.8 calls for the protection of labour rights and the promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment. Now that the Global Compact has been adopted, the challenge for countries around the world including Ghana will be to ensure its solid implementation in the areas that I have cited earlier. It is through forum such as the one we are having this morning that a whole-of-society conversation can take place to bring all the bits and pieces of labour migration governance together.
The second reason why this forum is timely is because it is being increasingly recognized by both the ECOWAS, the African Union and countries like Ghana that cross-border labour and skills mobility is critical for the development of the continent as well as for regional integration. Contrary to popular perception, most of the African migrants move within the African continent itself but not enough is being done to harness the potential benefits of this mobility and regulate it to ensure better protection for migrant workers. 2 It is often not fully understood, but most Sub-Saharan African countries face labour and skills shortages in specific sectors, while at the same time battling with unemployment. Regional skills pooling enabled through well managed labour mobility can help to address this challenge and incentivize workers to move where they are most productive and needed. Public employment services play a key role in managing this.
Third, Africa has one of the world’s youngest population and Ghana is no stranger to this. If engaged constructively, the youth will contribute immensely to the development of the continent and our countries will realize the demographic dividend. A key aspect of harnessing the potential of the youth is to ensure they are productive and have access to employment, at home or abroad. It is therefore imperative to facilitate safe and regular means for youth who are seeking to work abroad especially in a context where youth employment, the dominance of informal employment as well as un- and under-employment continue to create strong push factors for migration.
Fourth - and linked to what I just said about the appetite of our youth for migration in search of greener pastures - there is an increasing need for greater protection of migrant workers in Ghana and of Ghanaian migrant workers abroad. Most migrants are empowered by migration, creating new and better lives for themselves and their families and contributing to the development of their communities of origin through financial and social remittances. In 2015, migrants sent back over USD 600 billion in remittances – an amount that is three times larger than official development assistance. Ghana alone, received about USD 3.8 billion dollars in formal remittances in 2018, which makes it the second largest recipient of remittances in the Sub-Saharan region after Nigeria and at part with Senegal. However, and unfortunately, for migrants using irregular means, whether in attempts to reach Europe through Libya or for domestic workers going to the Middle East through unscrupulous agents, the experience is not conducive to positive outcomes for the migrant, his or her family, community or country of origin. And I will not go through the horrific details, I am sure it will be discussed later during the day, but protection is central to making sure that labour mobility results in decent jobs as is in the title of this forum.
Now my fifth and last point. I just mentioned the Middle East. This is indeed a fairly new trend for countries like Ghana where we are now seeing a significant number of migrants, going towards Gulf countries, looking for employment. Bilateral labour agreements (BLAs) are effective ways to manage these mobility corridors and Ghana recently signed such an agreement with Qatar. However, recent research shows that there are still substantive room for improvement with the agreements that we have seen so far on the continent and IOM stands ready to assist with this.
I promised five points and I will stick to five points.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to sum up, there is incredible potential in labour mobility for the development of Ghana. But this will not be realized without a conductive environment and a conducive environment will not be created without good migration governance. This is why IOM is supporting Ghana in adopting a national labour migration policy which is now validated and that we hope to see adopted soon. Once the policy is in place, public employment services will play a critical role in its operationalization, looking at the critical issues of skills and needs matching, recognition of qualifications, migrant workers protection, social security, preparing migrants before they leave and most importantly closing loopholes for unscrupulous intermediaries.
I will stop here by wishing all of us a very successful form and I look forward to the conclusions and recommendations from all participants.
Thank you very much