Migration and Development: Whose Responsibility Are They Anyway?

September 23, 2011
  • Jennifer Schappert

    Former Manager, BSR

The question of whose responsibility are migration and development was asked repeatedly during the recent Global Form on Migration and Development (GMFD) multi-stakeholder meeting. The meeting, hosted by BSR, the Swiss Foreign Ministry, and the World Trade Institute, brought together approximately 100 representatives from business, government, and academia to discuss the links between migration, trade, and development and to examine the role of each actor in promoting the human development of migrant workers.

So, where does responsibility fall among actors? Given the role of migrant workers as citizens, residents, and employees, it is equally the responsibility of government, civil society, and business to promote the human rights of migrant workers.

During the conference session on policy implications of trade, labor mobility and development, participants discussed how multi-national businesses can help drive social and economic development through the promotion of migrant human rights and by facilitating better skills transfer. Some of the specific recommendations for business discussed in the session were the following:

Understand:Understanding the migrant worker recruitment and employment value chain is the first way to identify potential abuses within a business’ own operations or within its supply chain. Questions for business to ask include: Do we directly or indirectly hire migrant workers? For those workers who are recruited indirectly, to what standards are the recruiters being held? 

Institutionalize: Highlighting in corporate codes of conduct issues  relevant to migrant workers, such as passport withholding recruitment fee payments, and linking supplier contracts with successful code implementation is an important way to ensure better treatment of migrant workers.

Develop: One of the key constraints to migrant worker mobility is a lack of relevant skills training prior to departure and during employment. Given the private sector’s competency at employee training, business can support migrant workers through language, financial literacy, and workers’ rights training. Public-private partnerships can facilitate the provision of these trainings.

Look further upstream: Companies can promote development, and perhaps secure their future workforce, by facilitating skills transfer to migrant workers’ countries of origin. For example, one company in the United Kingdom provides its employees short-term leave to return to their country of origin to give workshops on relevant business skills such as language, financial literacy, accounting, business development, and the migration processes. 

Specific policy recommendations from the GFMD will be released shortly. Check out a migration linkages report for more information on how business can promote ethical recruitment of migrant workers within their supply chain based on our recent experiences in Indonesia.

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