International migration in Asia-Pacific is on the rise, with 59 million documented migrants in 2013 (one in four of the world’s migrants) and a high number of non-recorded migrants. More than 3 million people in the Asia-Pacific region leave their countries every year to work abroad. Whether undertaken for work, study or marriage, migration has major social and economic impacts on the region, both positive and negative.
Through international migration, societies have become more open and more diverse. Remittances are a crucial source of income for both families and the State, forming up to 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in some countries, and have contributed to reduce poverty in many countries of the region. Migration is also an economic reality in some parts of the region as, due to population ageing, several countries in Asia-Pacific will increasingly need to hire migrant workers.
However, migration also has a social cost. Migrants’ difficult working conditions combined with limited protection as well as irregular migration and human trafficking are among the major challenges that need to be tackled. Countries of origin of migrants are addressing the social changes brought forth by migration, such as those related to family structures and roles. Countries of destination are tackling issues related to migrants’ integration into society and means of providing them with some form of protection.
International migration being a cross-border issue, these challenges are best addressed through regional cooperation, both among countries of origin and those of destination. As the intergovernmental platform for Asia-Pacific, ESCAP aims to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance the capacity of governments to design and implement policies that manage international migration while protecting migrants, including how to better manage international migration flows and improve migrants’ safety, facilitate their access to social protection, as well as to combat human trafficking.
Priorities include advocating for ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and enhancing the knowledge and evidence-base related to international migration in the region. ESCAP also provides technical support to governments through collecting data and undertaking research on the determinants and consequences of international migration in Asia-Pacific and related issues, monitoring migration flows and regional trends, and providing advice on appropriate policies to harness the benefits of migration while mitigating its costs.
As part of its coordinating role in the Asian and Pacific region, ESCAP also co-chairs the Asia-Pacific Regional Thematic Working Group on International Migration, including Human Trafficking, with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Working Group, comprising 16 United Nations regional entities, works together to ensure a coherent United Nations system response.