IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. Estimates suggest that gains from the liberalization of migration could surpass welfare gains from trade liberalization.

Key Stats on Labour Migration

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For centuries, migration has been an essential strategy for individuals to improve their lives and create opportunities for themselves and their families. Throughout history, and to the present day, migrants have made significant contributions to the social and economic development of their countries of destination. They bring new and needed skills to fill labour market gaps and establish businesses that fuel economic growth and employment. At the same time, they contribute to poverty reduction and development in their communities of origin through financial remittances and other forms of support. 

Economic migrants make up the majority of migration we see in our world today and, with the ever-more interconnected nature of the global economy, international labour migration is set to play an increasingly important role. Increased labour mobility bears large potential benefits for human development and poverty reduction through various channels including more competitive global labour markets and increased efficiency in the matching of skills supply and demand. 

Labour mobility in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region is structurally driven by demographic, social and economic differentials between labour abundant and resource abundant countries. A large proportion of workers are employed in the informal sector, making very complicated to assess the exact share of the informal sector in the economy, even though ILO estimates in 2018 put the share of informal employment at 68% in the MENA region. 

While the causes of labour mobility can be perceived as challenges to the development of MENA (for instance, high population growth resulting in high youth unemployment) migration can be an important pillar for local, national and international development policies, when mainstreamed into development plans. Thus, migration and labour mobility are part of the solution to development imperatives, consistent with local governance and social models, while allowing individuals to achieve their full potential for the growth and development of the Region. 

With MENA countries becoming increasingly eager to adopt a proactive approach to improve migration outcomes, IOM Regional Office for MENA is well positioned to respond to increasing demand for migration management systems. Currently, migration represents the main form of global and regional integration for MENA countries.

The LMI unit works with government, recruitment agencies and private sector companies to protect migrant workers and to optimize the benefits of labour migration for both the country of origin and destination as well as for the migrants themselves. IOM’s approach to international labour migration is to foster synergies between labour migration and development, and to promote legal avenues of labour migration as an alternative to irregular migration.

Migrant remittances play an important role in stimulating economic development and contribute to raising financing as one of the sustainable development goals. International workers’ remittances are considered as a prominent source of external financing for developing countries, constituting the second biggest source of foreign transfers to developing countries after foreign direct investment. Countries in Northern Africa received an estimated 37.6 billion USD in remittances in 2019. 

Remittance flows rose in the MENA by 9.1% to hit $59 billion in 2018. However, in 2020, due to the global economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank predicts the sharpest decline in remittances in recent history, with a 19.6% fall in the MENA Region.

Remittance Graphs

Personnal remittances in the MENA region (2000-2019) in current US$ - The World Bank, 2019

IOM in the Middle East and North Africa countries supports governments in the Region to fulfill their commitments towards migrants, displaced populations, affected populations, returnees and host communities in accordance with national priorities, as well as regional and global commitments and migration processes. Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and Agenda 2063 of the African Union Commission (AUC).

The countries covered by IOM's Regional Office for MENA reflect the broad spectrum of Labour Mobility and social Inclusion (LMI) work, including established countries of destination, such as the Gulf Cooperation Council, and emerging countries of destination such as Sudan, Libya, Egypt, as well as countries of origin of labour migrants like Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt (but most of these countries are at the same time CoO, CoD and CoT).

Regional labour migration dynamics offer considerable opportunities to leverage migration to support development efforts, but also risks relating to migrant protection and social conflict that Labour Mobility and social Inclusion's programmes seek to mitigate.

IOM´s work includes:

  • Facilitating safe, regular and orderly labour mobility and enhancing government capacity to effectively manage labour mobility;
  • Strengthening links between migration and development, particularly through diaspora engagement in development initiatives;
  • Supporting migrant integration and social cohesion in communities of destination.