Promoting a rights-based approach to labour migration by upholding fundamental rights at work and ILO Conventions on migrant workers

Unless otherwise specified, all International Labour Standards (Conventions and Recommendations) apply to both women and men migrant workers irrespective of their nationality and immigration status, skill level, etc. The Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97), the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), the Migration for Employment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 (No. 86), and the Migrant Workers Recommendation, 1975 (No. 151) provide the ILO with the necessary international legal framework to recognize a very important set of labour rights for migrant workers, laying the foundations for promoting a rights-based approach to achieving fair labour migration in the African region, but also in destination countries of African migrant workers and their family members in other geographical regions.

Based on its International Labour Standards and the UN 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the ILO provides capacity-building to tripartite constituents and officials involved on migration/mobility work and promotes increased awareness on the significance of ratifying and effective implementing ILO’s migrant workers Conventions.

The 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work has special importance to migrant workers since the eight fundamental rights at work Conventions (related to forced labour, child labour, equality and non-discrimination in employment and occupation, and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining) apply to all of them irrespective of their nationality or immigration status. The 1998 Declaration stipulates that all ILO Member States, including those that have not ratified the instruments in question, have an obligation by virtue of their membership “to respect, to promote and to realize in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights which are the subject of those conventions”.

Work under this item underlines linkages between labour migration, forced labour and child labour in Africa, and includes important work on combating discrimination, labour exploitation and abuse against migrant workers (particularly women migrant workers) that limit their possibilities to have a positive migration experience and decent work. It further includes recognizing the contribution of migrant workers to development, fostering advocacy on changing perceptions, and promoting positive attitudes and behaviours towards migrant workers:
  • In terms of legal frameworks, the ILO could mention its technical assistance to Ethiopia to support the Overseas Employment Proclamation adoption in 2016 (including tripartite consultations) contributing to lifting the ban on labour migration, and on formulating a model bilateral labour agreement;
  • At the same time, the ILO has lately supported a gap analysis assessment of Madagascar policies compared to ILO Conventions No. 97 and No.143;
  • A Tripartite Framework for the Support and Protection of Ethiopian Women Domestic Migrant Workers (MDWs) to the GCC States, Lebanon and Sudan was established to protect women MDWs. The ILO in collaboration with MOLSA developed a gender-sensitive pre-departure training manual to be used by the overseas employment department. In this regard, gender has been mainstreamed in all interventions undertaken to promote fair and safe labour migration and work towards the protection of Ethiopian women MDWs in the GCC states, Lebanon and Sudan.