164m people are migrant workers

 Sabbir Alam from Bangladesh in his tuck shop in Meqheleng near the Ficksburg border post. Ficksburg Bridge experiences a high volume of traffic as Lesotho nationals cross the border daily. Police say they arrest at least five people a day who try to cross the border illegally. Picture: Gallo images
Sabbir Alam from Bangladesh in his tuck shop in Meqheleng near the Ficksburg border post. Ficksburg Bridge experiences a high volume of traffic as Lesotho nationals cross the border daily. Police say they arrest at least five people a day who try to cross the border illegally. Picture: Gallo images

This week, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that 164 million people are migrant workers – a rise of 9% since 2013, when they numbered 150 million.

According to a newly released ILO report, titled Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers, covering the period between 2013 and 2017, the majority of migrant workers – 96 million – are men, while 68 million are women.

This represents an increase in the share of men among migrant workers from 56% to 58%, and a decrease by two percentage points in women’s share from 44% to 42%.

“While growing numbers of women have been migrating autonomously in search of employment in the past two decades, the discrimination they often face because of their gender and nationality reduces their employment opportunities in destination countries compared to their male peers,” said Manuela Tomei, director of the ILO conditions of work and equality department.

Nearly 87% of migrant workers are of prime working age, between 25 and 64 years old.

This suggests that some countries of origin are losing the most productive segment of their workforce.

This, the report says, could have a negative impact on their economic growth.

Of the 164 million migrant workers worldwide, about 111.2 million (67.9%) live in high-income countries, 30.5 million (18.6%) in upper middle-income countries, 16.6 million (10.1%) in lower middle-income countries and 5.6 million (3.4%) in low-income countries.

Migrant workers constitute 18.5% of the workforce of high-income countries, but only 1.4% to 2.2% of the workforce in lower-income countries.

Nearly 61% of migrant workers are found in three subregions: 23.9% in northern, southern and western Europe; 23% in North America; and 13.9% in the Arab countries. 

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