World Migration Report 2008

Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global Economy

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The task of formulating workable approaches to the management of international migration remains a formidable challenge for the community, one that will require both time and effort over the coming years. In what terms are we to develop comprehensive migration management strategies that will help us achieve coherence of action? What organizing principles should be adopted? Is there, in conceptual terms, a point of leverage to move the debate forward? Part of the problem lies in the difficulty of coming to a consensus about the fundamental nature of migration and its outcomes. Underlying the current and welcome inclination to acknowledge the potentially beneficial outcomes of migratory phenomena are many questions that are yet to be fully resolved. In the midst of that uncertainty there are suggestions worth exploring that contemporary migration – as opposed to whatever its historical antecedents may have been – is uniquely related to and defined by those processes of economic and social integration collectively known as globalization. The argument is that, whether by design or not, these developments are largely responsible for the creation of an unprecedented context in which human mobility seeks to find expression on a genuinely global scale. The World Migration Report 2008 tackles this issue directly and seeks to identify policy options that might contribute to the development of broad and coherent strategies to better match demand for migrant workers with supply in safe, humane and orderly ways. Part A of the Report explores the nature and magnitude of the need for such strategies through the observation and analysis of a wide range of contemporary migratory patterns linked to economic purposes while Part B discusses the contours of possible policy responses.

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Irregular migration

Irregular migration is undoubtedly one of the most discussed issues in migration management, whether in political debate, in conferences on migration management or on the front page of news dailies. It is by no means a recent phenomenon, although there is reason to believe that it has increased in magnitude and complexity since migration started to attract concerted attention from governments and international organizations in the early 1970s. It was largely in response to concerns about the problems faced by irregular migrants that the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers, 1975 (No. 143). Those same concerns featured strongly in the discussions that led to the finalization of the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in 1990. Governments, for their part, expend considerable energy on the formulation of legislation and policies to deter irregular migration, including through regularization of status programmes, which some regard as appropriate solutions, while others consider that they do little more than invite further influxes of unauthorized arrivals.

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