IOM and ILO lead global conversation on labour migration in the age of digitalization

Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Other
14 September, 2021



A rapidly expanding global digital economy harbors countless opportunities, but also poses a number of challenges and risks. In the face of this reality, it is urgent to understand that digitalization processes are changing the world, labor relations and even the reasons why people migrate.


With the technological progress of the last 25 years, a future of work has been forged with new scenarios that break with the traditional vision of labor relations. Automation and the development of digital platforms, for example, in food delivery services, to provide transportation services or applications for sending remittances, play a fundamental role in understanding the new divisions in employment and migration.  


Migrant workers are involved in socio-labor dynamics that do not escape the new trends that the future of work presents, and digitalization could contribute to safe, orderly and regular labor migration under decent work conditions.


These tools include the creation of innovative digital platforms of public institutions; new systems to process work permits quickly and expeditiously by virtual means, with a focus on the protection of public health; to the adoption of laws that encourage the mobility of "digital nomads", willing to telework from anywhere in the world.


The International Forum on digitalization, migration and development promoted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), which takes place this September 14, 15 and 16, 2021, aims to become a space for exchange of experiences, which show the successes achieved with the implementation of various initiatives, which could be replicated in the face of a recovery of decent, fair and equitable employment.


According to Leonardo Ferreira, ILO Director a.i. for Central America, Haiti, Panama and the Dominican Republic, migrant workers have been closely linked to the new labor insertion mechanisms that the future of work and its dynamics present.  


"The future of work entails a series of transformations centered on the use of virtual and innovative IT mechanisms, which are a great challenge and at the same time a great opportunity for the actors in the world of work; in other words, governments, employers and workers have the possibility of implementing tools that allow them to comply with labor rights, have updated information on the behavior of the labor market and understand the new labor relations," said Ferreira.





Recent studies show that, in 13 countries in the Latin American region before the pandemic, the bulk of the migrant population was of working age and, therefore, had an adequate profile to participate in the labour market of the receiving countries; however, between August and October 2020, only 43% of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers continued their work activities, and 57% were unemployed. 


Michelle Klein-Solomon, IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, recalled that the development of new information and communication technologies has transformed productive, economic, social and political systems. Undoubtedly, this transformation accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic, when activities and services that used to be carried out in person had to be adapted to virtual environments.


"We must ask ourselves how or to what extent international frameworks and national legislation on labour migration should be adjusted to address the new economic, social and technological reality, and whether we are able to guarantee the full inclusion of migrants in this new digital era," said Klein-Solomon.



Digitalization creates new opportunities for States, employers' organizations and workers' organizations, since the scope of today's technological tools makes it possible to design the ideal space for articulating efforts, joining forces and updating legislation on issues related to the world of work.


The creation of new tools that guarantee the fulfillment of the rights of migrant and refugee workers has become a priority in order to achieve target 8.2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological modernization and innovation.


At IOM, this event is part of the activities of the Western Hemisphere Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.