An International Migration Report in 2015 reported that ‘international migrants accounted for at least a quarter of the population in 43 countries or areas. These included small island states in the Caribbean, Micronesia or Polynesia as well as countries in Western Asia. By contrast, in many countries of Africa, Eastern Asia, South America and Southern Asia, migrants accounted for less than 5 per cent of the total population.’
In September 2016 KNOMAD (Global Knowledge Partnership and Migration and Development) published the outcome of some research carried out on the ‘Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labour Markets – An assessment’. It found that ‘A restrictive approach to the right to work prevails, and most states are reluctant to ease these restrictions. So, the question then is where do these people work? The document reported that ‘The majority of refugees work in the informal sector, but under much less satisfactory and more exploitative conditions compared with nationals. It concluded that on the basis of its findings that ‘more national and international coordination is required, multiple actors should share the responsibility to deliver decent work, labour market policies as well as training and education should be harnessed to support sustainable livelihoods, and refugee social capital should be more effectively engaged’. Critically, it also stated that this should not be at the cost of access to migrant workers, in other words, this is not an either-or situation but should be inclusive. The research also found that barriers such as language, qualification equivalences and the type of employment available prevented the utilisation and release of the skills and education of the refugees, a remarkably similar story for international migrants generally.
As of October 2015, sadly less than two percent of the 186 International Labour Organisation (ILO) Member States had ratified the three legally-binding instruments that are directly relevant for the protection of migrant workers, collectively these countries hosted less than three per cent of all international migrants worldwide. Although it is a start, clearly there is much more work to be done.
In Saudi Arabia, our fourth immigration hotspot, children can start kindergarten at the age of 2 and preschool at the age of 3 where they attend until entering primary education at the age of 6 for 6 years. In the final year children take an exam and gain an elementary education certificate. This is important as it determines whether they can progress to the next educational level. Between the ages of 12 to 15 children attend intermediate education taking a final year exam to obtain a certificate in intermediate education. Again, this determines whether they can progress onto either general secondary education where the gaining of a certificate enables them to progress onto higher education or, vocational secondary education where they can obtain a diploma.
Saudi Arabia has produced policies to proactively increase the employment share of Saudis and reduce dependency on foreign labour in the private sector through a range of policies and the Nitaqat programme.
Lesley Shepperson is Managing Director at Shepperson & Shepperson Consultants LTD. United Kingdom