Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South

On 24 January 2023, UNU-CPR organized the second event in a series of policy roundtables.

- America/New York
Baha’i International Community to the UN, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120, New York, NY 10017

On 24 January 2023, The UNU Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR) organized “Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South”, the second event in a series of policy roundtables. Drawing on evidence from a recently published Dejusticia book entitled Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South, this hybrid roundtable brought together representatives from the UN system, Member States,  international organizations and civil society to examine the challenges of ensuring that migrants in the Global South have both the right to work and decent working conditions.

The event focused on policy and practice efforts aimed at:

  • Ensuring that migrants, including refugees, have access to the labour market;
  • Reducing poor working conditions, insecurity, and discrimination; and
  • Identifying remedies for exploitation, forced labour, and wage theft.

A recording of the roundtable is available here

A UNU-CPR policy brief summarizing the key themes and recommendations is available for download here


The event was held in a hybrid format – in New York and via Zoom. It is aimed at UN agencies, Member States, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, academia, and others with an interest in ensuring the effective implementation of the Global Compact for Migration.


The event was organized by the UN University Centre for Policy Research (UNU-CPR) in partnership with Dejusticia and the MIDEQ Hub. We are grateful to the Baha’i International Community to the UN for the use of their venue and facilities.


Professor Heaven Crawley, Head, Equitable Development and Migration, UNU-CPR, and Director, MIDEQ Hub

Opening presentation

Lucía Ramirez Bolívar, Dejusticia, Colombia and co-author of Migration and Decent Work: Challenges for the Global South will provide an overview of the study’s key findings and implications for policy.


Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

Michelle Leighton, Chief, Labour Migration Branch, ILO

Sarah Mehta, Head of International Projects, Migrant Justice Institute

Paola Simonetti, Director, Equality Department, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Date and time

Tuesday 24th January 10.30-12.30 EST


Baha’i International Community to the UN, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120, New York, NY 10017


According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 90 per cent of international migration today is bound up in the world of work: an estimated 169 million of the 272 million people living outside their countries of birth or citizenship in 2019 were economically active (ILO, 2021). That comprises most working-age people in the migrant population, including refugees and asylum seekers, as well as persons migrating for family reunification. These estimates do not include short-term or seasonal migrants, for whom no global figures are available. Increased labor migration is a feature of contemporary globalization, which includes universalization of the capitalist mode of production and accumulation but not necessarily control or responsibility for its costs and consequences.

A growing proportion of migrants, particularly those who are in manual or semi-skilled sectors of the labour market, face significant difficulties in accessing ‘decent work’ in host countries. This includes those migrating between the countries of the Global South, some of which have weak or developing economies and problems with job creation, which can force many people —not just migrants— to engage in precarious work and put themselves at risk of labor exploitation. Migrant experiences of the labour market include low wages, poor working conditions, a virtual absence of social protection, denial of freedom of association and workers’ rights, discrimination and xenophobia, as well as social exclusion. In a significant number of cases, unemployment rates, job security, and wages differ between regular migrant workers and national workers. The lack of opportunities for decent work undermines the contribution of migration to delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and impedes migrants’ integration into host societies. It can be associated with human rights abuses and even death.