Economic migration – establishing decent working conditions

Every economy needs mobile workers. Globalisation has strengthened such developments, which can be seen all around the world. The SDC is committed to ensuring that economic migration takes place within a sound legal and social framework.

SDC focus

The SDC’s primary objective is to improve the protection of migrant workers. It also aims to maximise the benefits of economic migration for migrant workers and their dependants, thereby also contributing to the development of their countries of origin.

The SDC focuses on the following five aspects:

  • improved access to justice and other services, both for migrants and for their dependants in their countries of origin
  • preparation for temporary migration, as well as assistance with reintegration when migrants return home
  • Better protection for labour migrants in recruitment processes (mediation and hiring)
  • compliance with standards governing working conditions under the Decent Work Agenda and support for governments when they come to implement the relevant legal framework
  • stronger political dialogue between countries of origin and destination

The SDC is especially active in regions where labour migration is a significant economic and social factor, such as South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Background

People generally leave their homeland in search of a secure income and in the hope of achieving greater prosperity and security. Almost half of such economic migrants are women. Every year, more than 1 million workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka migrate to the Gulf States and the Middle East. Employment agencies play an important role in this process. Very few of those migrants have a clear and realistic idea of the living and working conditions that await them in their host country. This information is often unavailable or is deliberately withheld. This can result in migrants being exploited or finding themselves enslaved in inhuman conditions.

Opportunities

Economic migration contributes to the economic and social development of both countries of origin and destination. The work done by migrants benefits not only the workers themselves, their families and their countries of origin, but also their countries of destination. Migration leads to the transfer of money, goods, knowledge and ideas. Often, though, migration is not a one-way journey: migrants often return home, and the knowledge, capital and international experience that they take with them supports the development of their countries of origin.

Current challenges

In many host countries, migrants are among the most vulnerable sections of society. They often have no rights and have to endure poor working and living conditions. Although international standards for the protection of migrant workers exist, they are often ignored. In many cases, debts owed to recruitment agencies are an additional burden. Indeed, the brokerage fee for a job abroad can be many times the migrant’s monthly wage.

Global economic imbalances often result in large numbers of qualified workers leaving developing countries and never returning. This "brain drain" can hinder the development of the migrants’ homeland, a problem that is particularly acute in the health sector.

However, the international mobility of workers and job-seekers can be a development opportunity for all concerned. To make the most of this potential, there is a need for closer international cooperation, regulatory measures in both countries of origin and destination, and a willingness to grant migrants their rights.

Documents

Current projects

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Migration for social well-being and economic development in Sri Lanka

Family members excitedly examine their travel documents

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankans leave their country to work abroad for a few years, usually in the Gulf States. They thereby further Sri Lanka's economic development but at the same time risk having their basic human rights, and their labour rights in particular, violated. That is why the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working for the establishment of a framework that ensures decent working conditions for migrant workers in the region.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Migration
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
EMERGENCY RESPONSE
Facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility
Facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility
Material relief assistance and services

01.03.2016 - 29.02.2020


CHF 6'850'000



Fair and ethical recruitment of migrant workers

01.11.2021 - 31.12.2023

Approximately 105 million people are currently working outside their country of origin. Many of these migrant workers have profited from international labour recruitment intermediaries. Millions, however, have become victims of abusive and exploitative practices by unethical recruiters. Working together with different actors, SDC will support initiatives to ensure fair and ethical recruitment. Migrants and their families will be better protected and thereby better enabled to contribute to the development of their countries of origin and destination.


Application of Migration Policy for Decent Work of Migrant Workers

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2021

Men and women who opt for migrating abroad for employment will benefit from better protection through pre-departure orientation, the application of international standard contracts and access to social security/welfare. The project will improve migration governance in Bangladesh by strengthening the rather weak policy and legislative framework and by building the capacity of the government to expand and improve services for migrant workers.


Return and Reintegration of Migrant Workers in Bangladesh

01.01.2019 - 30.06.2021

The project’s over-arching goal is to make reintegration economically and socially sustainable for returnee migrants, so that they do not feel obliged to re-migrate. The project will raise awareness of the obstacles returnee men and women migrants are facing. The collaboration with European partners will allow to influence the discourse on dignified and development-oriented migration and return in Bangladesh


Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD)

01.12.2018 - 31.08.2024

Migration is one of the 21st century’s defining features that significantly impacts economic and social development. It is thus crucial to ensure that the positive effects of migration on development are maximized, while the negative ones minimized. This is only possible if reliable evidence on migration and its interrelations with development is available. KNOMAD generates ground-breaking research and policy recommendations in the field of M&D. Switzerland has taken a lead in building-up KNOMAD as a pioneering knowledge initiative.


Swiss Civil Society Organizations Platform on Migration and Development

01.11.2018 - 31.10.2021

Obtaining a coherent and practical Swiss foreign policy on migration (acknowledging the potential of migration for development) depends on the close collaboration between Swiss officials, civil society organisations and the private sector. In its second phase, the project “Swiss CSO Platform on Migration and Development” will contribute to shaping a constructive narrative on Migration and Development, while further strengthening the Swiss Civil Society’s contribution towards the Agenda 2030 and the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM)/Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). 


Fair Recruitment and Labour Conditions of Migrant Workers

01.10.2018 - 31.10.2021

Many of the 105 million people working outside their countries of origin have fallen victim of exploitative practices by unethical recruiters and employers. This project aims to prevent abuses and exploitation of migrant workers. It responds to a demand by the private sector in the global North for ethical standards throughout their supply chains. The Swiss private sector will benefit from stricter standards of recruitment and decent work, while Swiss consumers will profit from consumer goods increasingly produced under fair and ethical standards.


Migrant Rights and Decent Work (MiriDew)

01.09.2018 - 31.08.2021

Remittances sent home by over 3 million Nepali migrant workers have significantly reduced poverty. Nevertheless, the rights of migrants are regularly violated. The proposed project will enhance the Government of Nepal’s understanding of overseas labour market conditions and strengthen mechanisms to better protect the rights of Nepali workers at home and abroad through better consular support and a strong presence in the international policy dialogue.


Safer Migration (SaMI III) project

16.07.2018 - 15.07.2022

Labour migration is positively affecting Nepal’s socio-economic development with remittances significantly reducing poverty. Nevertheless, the rights of migrants are often violated. The Safer Migration project will empower migrants and their families and strengthen government protection mechanisms. The project will benefit about 600’000 men and women in three states of Nepal and enable about 60 local governments to run foreign employment services.


Community-led Outreach on Safe Migration (COSM)

01.11.2017 - 31.12.2019

This single-phase project will complement a larger EU-supported project aiming at making people aware about safe migration at the Union and Upazilla level. The project will also pilot a pre-employment module developed by the Global Program Migration and Development and used in Sri Lanka, to verify its effectiveness in the context of Bangladesh. It is expected that the evidence generated in this project will feed into a larger SDC-funded project, to start in 2019.



Migration Network Activities

01.03.2016 - 30.06.2020

The SDC Migration network provides the platform to share knowledge and experience on programmes, efforts and global developments in the field of migration and development at operational and policy dialogue level. It constitutes the framework to support activities contributing to the different network components, hence contributing to increase sharing of knowledge and enhanced connections among stakeholders.

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