International Migrants Day

International Migrants Day, 18 December, is an international day appointed by the United Nations.

On this day in 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted the international convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. It is observed throughout the world as an opportunity to highlight the risks and abuses faced by migrants and also as an opportunity to celebrate their enormous contribution to the global economy, their host countries and their home countries.

Migrants and the garment industry

Migrant workers are becoming an increasingly important part of the workforce within the global garment industry. 

Countries with a high proportion of migrant workers employed in the garment industry includes Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Mauritius, Jordan, Egypt and the Maldives. For most of these countries the industry more or less relied on the import of labour for its ability to compete on a global level. In China, internal migrants make up the majority of garment workers. A recent development is the employment of refugees in the garment industry in countries such as Turkey.

The increasing presence of migrant garment workers cannot be separated from a more general trend in the industry, namely a dramatic shift from the use of permanent, regular employment to temporary, contract and seasonal labour.

As brands and retailers develop buying policies that are based on lower prices, shorter lead times and more favourable (to them) terms of trade and credit their relationships with suppliers are becoming increasingly unstable and temporary. This in turn is translating into an increase in job insecurity and worsening working conditions.

Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Migrant garment workers are part of a growing global industry of managed labour migration, sometimes involving long and complex labour supply chains that obscure normal relationships between employer and employee.

At the same time most migrant workers exist in legal grey areas, where their status and identity as workers is subject to constant legal and economic insecurity. Government policies on migration and work are instrumental in creating a whole tier of workers whose legal status prevents them from speaking out to demand their rights and creating a pool of workers subjected to conditions akin to modern slavery.

Quick facts

  • According to estimates of the ILO there are 150 million migrant workers, which is 72.7 per cent of working age migrant population.
  • Almost half of migrant workers worldwide are women (44.3 per cent). Migrant women are considerably more often part of the workforce than non-migrant women work (67.0 per cent versus 50.8 per cent).
  • For more recent data see the (2015).

Migrants' contribution to the global economy and those of their home countries is undeniable.

Respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants is essential but as yet equal access to right and benefits are denied to migrant workers.

This must change.
There is a whole range of measures that brands, governments and civil society can take to improve the lives and working conditions of migrants.


globe.pngMigrants are working in the garment industry all over the world. From internal migrants in China, to special "Economic Zones" in Jordan, to the backstreets of Brazil and the sweatshops of Italy.

Read their stories here.

CCC's work on Migrants

The Clean Clothes Campaign aims to highlight the situation of migrant workers within the garment industry, who are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses. We aim to identify the changes needed to remedy this and to ensure that businesses, brands, retailers, employers and governments to be made accountable for abuses.

We believe all workers, local and migrant, should receive equal pay for equal work.

We call on governments, businesses, brands & employers to ensure all workers are paid a living wage - that goes beyond the minimum wage - for a standard working week.

We call for an end to discriminatory practices, unfair wage deductions, levies and excessive work hours. For migrant workers to be empowered to represent themselves and defend their right to decent employment; and for migrant workers to have equal access to and benefit equally from social security provision.

This struggle is together with all workers and peoples.

 

On 18 December 1990 the UN adopted the on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It entered into force on 1 July 2003 after 20 stated ratified the Convention. The Convention aims to protect migrant workers against discrimination and other human rights violations. International Migrants Day was established in 2000 and is celebrated yearly to ask attention for the situation of migrants.

Women migrants - a growing number

All over the world, migrant workers are increasingly women. The ILO reports that 800,000 women every year leave their home countries in Asia to find work and that women migrate at a higher rate than men from countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

All over the world, migrant workers are increasingly women. The ILO reports that 800,000 women every year leave their home countries in Asia to find work and that women migrate at a higher rate than men from countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Migrants fight to organise - against the odds

Freedom of association or the right to organise is crucial for workers - migrants or not - to be able to exercise their right to decent work.

Freedom of association or the right to organise is crucial for workers - migrants or not - to be able to exercise their right to decent work.

Low Pay, No Pay, Deception & Overtime

Migrant workers are at the greatest risk of poverty wages and unfair working conditions. Often, the already very low standards prevalent in the garment industry don't apply to them.

Migrant workers are at the greatest risk of poverty wages and unfair working conditions. Often, the already very low standards prevalent in the garment industry don't apply to them.

Access to healthcare - a case study

Migrant workers are not only discriminated against when it comes to salaries but also often lack access to basic social service provisions including health care.

Migrant workers are not only discriminated against when it comes to salaries but also often lack access to basic social service provisions including health care.