Leading the business case for migration

IOE champions properly managed migration systems that benefit both business and communities.

Australia’s fruit and vegetables growers should have been celebrating in 2018 as sales reached unprecedented levels. Instead, they were worried that the explosive growth risked withering on the vine due to a major labour shortage in the horticultural industry. Led by the major fruit and vegetable business association, AUS-VEG Australia, the business community mobilised and worked with the government to find a solution to this employment crisis. Together they drafted the 2019 Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement, which was signed into law at the end of the year. The Agreement allows fruit and vegetables producers in Australia to employ migrant workers with specific horticultural skills.

The Australian horticultural business community’s response offers one strong example of how the private sector can help transform the migration debate into one about managing the mobility of skills and talent rather than the predominant toxic narrative.

Increasing migration flows

Data from the United Nations shows that there is no slowdown in the number of people moving countries. The growing number of international migrants has now reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population, according to data from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. International migrants –defined as anyone who changes their "country of usual residence"– make up 3.5 per cent of the global population, compared to 2.8 per cent in the year 2000, according to the latest figures.

The UN data, known as ‘International Migrant Stock 2019,’ goes on to highlight that three out of every four international migrants are between 20-64; in other words, 202 million international migrants are of "working age". 

Four regions host the most migrants with Europe at 82 million, Northern America at 59 million, North Africa and Western Asia at 49 million.

Business response to migration

The International Organisation of Employers (IOE) has been in the forefront at national, regional and international forums to incorporate a business perspective into the narrative on migration.

IOE and its 158-member business federations have been calling for the establishment of legal frameworks on migration that favours orderly and safe migration flows and social stability. We have also been calling for policies allowing the smooth movement of professional and specialised personnel across borders, especially as demographic and technological changes rapidly change the labour market landscape. 

The IOE-managed business network, the Business Advisory Group on Migration, provides input to State-led initiatives, such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Regional consultations in Latin America and Africa brought together governments and employers to analyse the impact of migration policies on businesses. Recommendations that emerged from these consultations, backed by evidence-based research, include: pursuing greater collaboration with the private sector in the review and design of migration policies taking into consideration talent mobility and skills development, recognition and equivalence; the promotion of regular migration pathways, transparent and consistent migration policies that leverage innovation solutions to directly address skills gaps.

At the forthcoming 12th Global Forum on Migration and Development Summit (GFMD), in Quito on 20-24 January, the Business Advisory Group on Migration is spearheading business-led events to raise awareness of the practical solutions proposed by the private sector stakeholder group on promoting talent mobility and skills matching, recognition and equivalence.

Through responsible policies that effectively favour orderly and safe migration, together with providing smart and pragmatic solutions to private sector skills needs, there is no doubt that governments and business together can transform public opinion on well-regulated migration.

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