Effective governance of labour migration is a policy priority in South Asia given the political, economic and social implications. This is hardly surprising if we factor the region’s substantial migratory flows with Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, each accounting for approximately between 46-71,000 overseas migrants on an average annually. It is also well established that together these South Asian countries are among the world’s top 20 countries of origin of international migrants in 2019 (UN DESA, 2019a).
The primary driver of migration from the region is employment as it results in manifold benefits ranging from migrant earnings- often doubling and tripling wages, and building human capital by providing opportunity to develop new skills. The principal destinations of migrants from South Asia have been the Gulf Countries, followed by Malaysia and Singapore and to a lesser extent Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. The convergences found in South Asian migration flows apart are not just evident in selection of destination countries but also include similar characteristics in the socio-cultural attributes, skill sets of migrant workers, recruitment practices, working and living conditions abroad and the impact of remittances on socio-economic development. Therefore identifying good practices in the region guided by international principles and norms and based on their efficacy on ground offer roadmap for improving labour migration governance in South Asia.
Some work in this domain has already been done under the aegis of Colombo Process and the SAARC Technical Committee on Labour Migration. While, the Colombo Process works under the thematic areas of skills and qualification recognition, fostering ethical recruitment, pre-departure orientation, remittances and labour market analysis, the SAARC Technical Committee on Labour Migration agrees to share best practices on responsible management of labour migration to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of migrant workers abroad. Most recently, in light of the pandemic, India took the lead in holding a regional meet with the Governments of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for necessary action in providing emergency relief, shelter and repatriation of nationals stranded abroad, many of whom were migrant workers. Therefore, desired outcomes are most likely to be achieved if concerned countries meet on a regular basis to discuss labour migration issues, deliberate on best ways to resolve them and learn from each other’s experience.
With international migration facing a temporary setback across the world, a need has been felt to revive regional solidarities to promote safe, orderly and regular migration. Furthermore, as migration trends continue to evolve with time and the challenges increase in complexity, it is time for recognising the potential of further developing such cooperative mechanisms in achieving inclusive, broad-based and effective governance of international migration. It is against this backdrop, India Centre for Migration is organising a virtual panel discussion on ‘South Asian Synergies in International Migration: Identifying Best Practices’ on 29 October 2020 from 1500 to 1630 hrs (IST).
The discussion will aim to deliberate (but not limited to) the following points –