LDC-IV, Istanbul: Labour and Social Protections Essential for Women Migrant Workers

Date : 12 May 2011

Istanbul—The topic of migration and development took to the spotlight this week at the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV), bringing together high-level officials on 11 and 12 May to discuss, in particular, the challenges, rights and social as well as labour protections of women migrant workers.

“Migration and development is attracting the attention of more and more players, particularly as it affects LDCs, said UN Women Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director Ms. Michelle Bachelet at an event, co-organized by UN Women and the International Labour Organization, on care workers, migration and development 11 May. “For UN Women this has two essential elements: protecting migrant women's rights and enabling them to contribute more fully to economic development.

The event highlighted the need to place care work, especially domestic care work, central to development and to implement legal and social protections for domestic care workers, in line with the proposed ILO Convention, the CEDAW GR. No 26 on Women Migrant Workers and other international standards. The ILO currently estimates that domestic care workers make up approximately 4 to 10 percent of the labour force of developing countries and about 2 percent of the workforce in developed countries. Further, domestic work — often not considered “productive, even when paid for and provided to others — is excluded from labour and social protections in about 40 percent of countries worldwide.

Government officials from Nepal, the Philippines and Spain and a law expert from Canada, who spoke on the event's panel, illustrated good practices in implementing these protections, pointing to labour and migration law coverage, contracts for domestic workers, pre-departure training and skills upgrading as well as laws on violence against women, covering all women migrant workers.

In a separate LDC-IV event organized by UN Women and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 12 May, Ms. Bachelet, government officials from the Philippines and Benin and field experts gathered to discuss women migrant workers, remittances and development planning. They proposed the need for sex disaggregated data and research on: remittances and development, protections for migrant workers at all stages of migration, reductions in transfer costs, gender-sensitive mechanisms of transfer and investment, and diaspora investment in women-oriented development initiatives. Speakers further proposed integrating these priorities into national plans and budgets.

Where data or studies do exist, they point to the untapped potential of remittances by women migrant workers. Data from Nepal, for instance, suggests that women working abroad sent home 7.6 million rupees in 1997, 11 percent of the total. More recent estimates suggest that women's remittances constitute about 23 percent of Nepal's GDP.

“UN Women stands committed to strengthening its collaboration with partners working on women's migration, remittances and development, including governments, the private sector, UN and regional organizations, to realize these results, Ms. Bachelet said. “I especially look forward to deepening the partnership with IOM and to working with partners on this panel.

A memorandum of understanding between IOM and UN Women with a solid work program at global, regional, national levels covering women migrant workers will be launched at the 60th Anniversary celebrations of IOM in December 2011.