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World migration tops 120 million, says ILO report

The Jakarta Post, 3 March 2000

JAKARTA (JP): Far from reducing international migration flows -- by moving products instead of people -- globalization will give rise to increased migration pressures in the years ahead, the International Labour Office (ILO) said in a report made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The report, entitled, Workers without Frontiers -- The Impact of Globalization on International Migration, argues that flows of goods and capital between rich and poor countries will not be large enough to offset the needs for employment in poorer countries. Instead the social disruption caused by economic restructuring is likely to shake more people loose their communities and encourage them to look abroad for work.

The total number of migrants around the world now surpasses 120 million -- up from 75 million in 1965 -- and continues to grow, according to the report.

"Only when development has been underway for some time will people have faith that staying at home is the better long-term solution," the report said.

The ability to find good jobs and earn much higher pay is the prime reason people are emigrating.

A 1996 survey of 496 undocumented Mexicans in the United States found that they earned an average of US$31 per week in their last Mexican job compared to $278 per week in the U.S., an earning ration of 9:1.

In 1997, Indonesian laborers earned $0.28 per day in their country versus $2 or more per day in neighboring Malaysia.

In 1995, hourly labor costs in manufacturing stood at $0.25 in India and China, $0.46 in Thailand, $0.60 in Russia, $1.70 in Hungary and $2.09 in Poland against $13.77 in the United Kingdom, $14.40 in Australia, $$16.03 in Canada, $17.20 in U.S.. $19.34 in France, $23.66 in Japan and $31.88 in Germany, according a study quoted in the report.

Countries of the next generation of the newly industrialized economies (NIEs) such as Thailand and Malaysia are both sources and destinations for migrant workers.

In 1977, before the economic crises, Thailand was host to 600,000 migrants, but also had 372,000 Thai workers spread around Asia.

Indonesia exports unskilled labor to the Middle East, Malaysia and Singapore and imports skilled workers, mostly from India and the Philippines.

"By the middle of 1997 there were thought to be over 6.5 million foreign workers in seven Asian countries: Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan."

In a number of Asian countries the majority of emigrants today are women, generally working as domestic servants in the Middle East, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This is the case for 69 percent of migrants from Srilanka, 65 percent from Indonesia and 55 percent from Thailand, the report said.