Safe, orderly and regular migration can be a key enabler of sustainable development. International migration affects all countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Almost 102 million people from the region lived outside their countries of birth in 2017. Meanwhile, countries in Asia-Pacific hosted over 62 million migrants, representing an increase of more than 20 per cent since 1990 (UNPD, 2017). Over half of all migrants from the region migrate to developing countries, either within or to neighbouring regions, especially the Middle East. Women migrants make up 51 per cent of the migrant stock, but only 46 per cent of migrants from the region.
Labour migration dominates the migration flows in the region. According to ILO estimates, there were about 33.5 million migrant workers in Asian and Pacific countries in 2017 (ILO, 2018). Labour migration includes both migration between countries of the Asia-Pacific region and migration to the oil-producing countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Labour migrants sent over $316 billion to Asian and Pacific countries in remittances in 2018, over ten times the amount received as official development assistance in 2017. Migrants also make significant contributions to the sustainable development of developing countries of destination, through their work, consumption and taxes. They also help to build bridges between countries of origin and destination, while migration can also be empowering for migrants, enabling them to learn new skills and broadening their horizons.
These gains are offset however due to the realities faced by many migrants, whose migration experiences are unsafe, irregular and disorderly. Limited legal pathways to migration, high migration costs and a lack of cooperation between countries of origin and destination result in many migrants suffering exploitation and abuse, violating their human and labour rights and creating serious challenges to sustainable development. Women migrants are particularly vulnerable to these forms of abuse
For migration to live up to its potential to benefit all – migrants and non-migrants alike – it is essential that it be safe, orderly and regular.
ESCAP’s Work on Migration
ESCAP supports follow-up to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. It also directly supports regional and global dialogue initiatives, such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development.
ESCAP carries out research to enhance the knowledge and evidence-base related to international migration in the region. ESCAP also provides technical support to governments to strengthen their capacity through advice on appropriate policies to harness the benefits of migration while mitigating its costs.
As part of its coordinating role in the Asian and Pacific region, ESCAP co-chairs the Asia-Pacific Regional Thematic Working Group on Sustainable Societies with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Working Group, comprising 16 United Nations regional entities, works to ensure a coherent United Nations system response to sustainable development-related population and development issues, including international migration.
Migration and the 2030 Agenda
Migrants and migration are specifically recognised in the 2030 Agenda in the following Sustainable Development Goals and targets:
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Means of implementation 3.c. Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States.
Indicator 3.c.1. Health worker density and distribution.
The intent of means of implementation 3.c. is to prevent the “brain-drain” of trained health professionals from less developed to more developed countries.
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Means of implementation 4.b. By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.
Indicator 4.b.1. Volume of official development assistance flows for scholarships by sector and type of study.
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Target 5.1. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
Target 5.2. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Target 8.7. Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.
Target 8.8. Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.
Indicator 8.8.1. Frequency rates of fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries, by sex and migrant status.
Indicator 8.8.2. Number of International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions ratified, by type of convention.
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Target 10.7. Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.
Means of implementation 10.c. By 2030, reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent.
Indicator 10.7.1. Recruitment cost borne by employee as a percentage of yearly income earned in country of destination.
Indicator 10.7.2. International Migration Policy Index.
Indicator 10.c.1. Remittance costs as a percentage of the amount remitted.
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Target 16.2. End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
Target 16.9. By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.
Indicator 16.2.2. Number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population, by sex, age group and form of exploitation.
Indicator 16.9.1. Percentage of children under 5 whose births have been registered with a civil authority, disaggregated by age.
While target 16.9. does not refer specifically to the children of migrants, they are often at high risk of not having their birth officially registered.
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
Target 17.18. By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.
Indicator 17.18.1. Proportion of sustainable development indicators produced at the national level with full disaggregation when relevant to the target, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.
International migration is also recognised in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development. The Action Agenda contains commitments to:
- Combat xenophobia and facilitate integration through education and communication strategies;
- Lower recruitment costs of migrants;
- Increase portability of earned benefits and recognition of qualifications;
- Enhance productive use of remittances
- Promote faster, cheaper and safer transfer of remittances;
- Cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration, with full respect for human rights; and to
- Increase and use high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by sex, age, geography, income, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, and other characteristics relevant in national contexts
The Global Compact on Migration
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Marrakech Compact on Migration) is the first global framework to focus on the cooperative management of migration for the benefit of all – countries of origin, destination, migrants and non-migrants alike.
The Marrakech Compact on Migration is a voluntary, non-binding and comprehensive framework negotiated and adopted by United Nations Member States and founded on national sovereignty, human rights, and ensuring that migration is a choice, not a necessity.
It is rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda aimed at harnessing the benefits of migration for all and minimizing its negative impacts. ESCAP held a regional preparatory meeting in 2017 to gather insights on the regional priorities for the Marrakech Compact on Migration to help shape it and supports the implementation of the Marrakech Compact on Migration in the Asia-Pacific through dialogue, research and capacity-building work.
United Nations - The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is the first-ever agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. Want to know more about Migration and the GCM? Watch this two-minute explainer.
Tools and Methodologies
This Report supports the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration by providing an evidence base on migration in the region, including trends, key issues and recommendations, to guide action.
The database on annual migrant worker outflows compiles time series data on annual labour outflows from select countries of origin to respective countries of destination. These outflow data are compiled by ESCAP, based on official administrative records from countries of origin, to help understand the scale and direction of labour migration in the region.
The Population Data Sheet, published annually by ESCAP, provides an overview of key indicators on population dynamics - including population size and growth rates, fertility rate, life expectancy and age structure, at country, subregional and regional levels. It is a useful tool for reference by researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders active in the field of population and development.