Magazine article World of Work

Labour Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean

Magazine article World of Work

Labour Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean

Article excerpt

1. What are the most dynamic migration corridors in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)?

The United States continues to play an important role as the main country of destination for Latin American and Caribbean migrant workers (in 2015, 51 per cent of US immigrants originated from the Latin American and Caribbean region). However, the share of labour migration flows to other destinations, including neighbouring countries and the European Union, has increased since the early 1990s.

As a result, a complex system of inter-regional labour migration corridors has evolved including the following South-South employment migration corridors: workers from Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala migrating to Costa Rica, Panama and Belize; Haitian workers moving to the Dominican Republic; Caribbean workers of all nationalities to Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas; Bolivians, Paraguayans, Peruvians and Ecuadorians working in Argentina; Haitians and Paraguayans migrating to Brazil for employment purposes; and Peruvians and Argentinians to Chile.

Importantly, major migration corridors outside the region have developed mainly before the 2008 financial crisis: Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Colombians and other Latin American workers moving to Spain, Italy or other Western European countries such as Switzerland and France.

2. What are the main characteristics of migrant workers in the LAC region?

The feminization of the migrant labour force during the past three decades is probably one of the most salient features that could be mentioned. Women migrant workers now represent on average more than half of the total number of migrants in North and South America.

Another prominent aspect is the large numbers of migrant workers finding themselves in irregular situations in destination countries. This partially explains the growing number of migrant workers in the informal economy of destination countries' labour markets. Their working conditions (particularly working time and wages) are often considered deficient, and the large majority of them have no access to social security.

3. What are the main challenges for governments of the LAC region in terms of labour migration?

Labour migration is not a new issue in the region. What is lacking are medium and long-term policy responses and comprehensive governance measures that would recognize migrant workers' labour and skills as an asset, and a contribution to economic growth and sustainable development.

The main challenges encountered in the region are: the strong national security and border-control influence on migration policies in most countries; a weak focus on legal migrants' labour rights; the lack of social dialogue and participation in regional migration consultation processes (the Puebla Process and the South American Migration Conference); the absence of Ministries of Labour in inter-governmental commissions on migration; the lack of coherence between migration policies and employment policies; weak labour market institutions' inability to work on labour migration issues; insufficient participation of migrant workers in trade unions and collective bargaining processes; and lastly, weak information and statistics systems and knowledge gaps about labour migration.

4. What examples of good practices exist in the LAC region on labour migration?

Latin America and the Caribbean (particularly South America) is a region with a long tradition and experience in social dialogue between governments, employers and workers on social and labour issues. …

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