ILO issues wage protection guidance for migrant workers

Many migrant workers face wage-related abuses, including non-payment and delayed payment of wages.

Press release | 27 April 2023
GENEVA (ILO News) – Migrant workers will benefit from new ILO guidance on wage protection that outlines relevant international labour standards.

The Guidance Note focuses on wage-related issues faced by migrant workers, including non-payment and delayed payment of wages. These can lead to debt bondage and forced labour, according to the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR).

Adequate wages and timely payment are essential for securing decent work and social justice and have the most direct and tangible effect on the everyday lives of workers. Countless families and communities are dependent on remittances from migrant worker relatives.  

Migrant workers may face discrimination, xenophobia and racism, unfair recruitment processes, and restrictions based on their migration status which can contribute to labour and wage-related abuses. The issue of non-payment of wages is one of the most common forms of complaints by low-wage migrant workers and especially workers in irregular status.

‘Wage-related abuses were already a major labour rights concern for migrant workers prior to the pandemic, particularly in crisis contexts such as conflict, which could result in workers having to leave a country of destination quickly, without obtaining their entitlements,’ said Michelle Leighton, Chief of the ILO Labour Migration Branch. ‘However, the COVID-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented challenge for wage protection.’

Governments around the world acknowledged the issue in the 2022 Progress Declaration of the International Migration Review Forum, committing to “enhance[e] international cooperation to allow for the recovery of earned wages, benefits and entitlements of returning migrants.”

Wages need to be paid in full and in a predictable and timely manner for workers to receive the expected benefits of the wages they earn.

‘Timely payment of wages requires a wide range of measures, not only at the legislative level but also in practice, as well as an open and continuous dialogue with and between the social partners,’ said Katerine Landuyt, Technical Specialist with the ILO Labour Migration Branch.

The Guidance Note was launched at a virtual event on 27 April 2023.