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  5. Globalization and Migrant Workers

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FOCUS September 1996 Volume 5

Globalization and Migrant Workers

An international workshop entitled "Migrant Workers Challenging Global Structures" was held in Seoul in late August this year.

In a conference statement, the participants recognize the existence of an estimated 15 million migrant workers (documented and undocumented) in Asia alone and the increasing percentage of women among them. The participants likewise say that migrant workers suffer from economic, political, socio-cultural and religious marginalization.

On globalization, the participants express concern that

"... globalisation is leading to profit-driven economies that thrive on cheap and docile labor, especially of women, and societies that stress consumerism and competition. In turn, these have resulted in the erosion of human values, commodification of people (especially migrant workers), disintegration of societies, families and communities, racism, xenophobia, unsustainable lifestyles, and the degradation of the environment."

"Demand for cheap labour has led to subcontracting mechanisms, adoption of "trainee" schemes and increasing feminisation of migrant labour. This translates into absence of accountability of companies especially transnational corporations (TNCs), unjust wage structures, absence of economic and social security, and violence against women and migrants. The migrant workers, uprooted from their families and communities, have to work under hostile, abusive and exploitative situations, and are generally denied their right to organise and unionise."

"We recognise the fact that migrant workers boost and contribute to the economic growth of receiving countries and through their remittances, help prevent the collapse of some debt-ridden countries."

The participants reaffirm the position that migrant workers, whether documented or undocumented, have rights as workers and as human beings as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and other international conventions.

The participants resolved to campaign against globalization and APEC; strengthen lobby for ratification of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; continue and strengthen the migrant action alert mechanism to expose blatant violations of migrants' human rights; encourage trade unions and labor movements in each country to develop migrant workers' concerns, and for them to link up with each other; pressure governments to provide decent employment to the people, and encourage and monitor its efforts to undertake reintegration initiatives; and to organize migrants' savings/investment groups and alternative livelihood.

The workshop was attended by over a hundred representatives of migrant workers organizations, support groups, trade unions, women's groups, human rights organizations and religious bodies from 16 countries in Asia, America and Europe.

For further information contact: Asian Migrant Centre Ltd., 4, Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, tel. (852) 2312-0031, fax (852) 2367-7355.