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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentMarital status
View the documentMaternity leave
View the documentMaternity protection
View the documentMaximum weight
View the documentMigrant workers
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Migrant workers

Migrant workers are persons who migrate from one country to another with a view to being employed otherwise than on their own account. ILO instruments on migrant workers do not apply to the following: frontier workers; short-term entry of members of the liberal professions and artistes; seafarers; persons coming specifically for training or education purposes; and employees of organizations or enterprises operating within the territory of a country who have been admitted temporarily to that country - at the request of their employer - to undertake specific duties or assignments for a limited and defined period and who are required to leave the country on the completion of their duties or assignments.

All migrant workers should have the right to treatment no less favourable than that applied to national workers in respect of, among other things:

• remuneration (including family allowances);
• hours of work;
• overtime arrangements;
• holidays with pay;
• restrictions on home work;
• minimum age for employment;
• apprenticeship and training;
• women's work and the work of young persons;
• trade union activities;
• participation in and enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining;
• accommodation and social security.

Due to high and persistent unemployment, many countries have introduced policies to reduce the number of immigrants, and are now confronted with the problem of migrant workers who are in an irregular situation and/or illegally employed. Despite lack of clear statistical evidence, it can be assumed that a large majority of women fall into this category.

By the very nature of the work they undertake, women can be particularly vulnerable when employed for work outside their own countries. They may be subject to exploitation and abuse not only because they are employed abroad and hence outside the legal protection of their country of origin, but also because they often hold jobs for which there is little protection under social legislation (domestic workers, manual workers in agriculture, factories or export-processing zones, hostesses or entertainers in nightclubs or cabarets, etc.). Their situation is often made worse by the lack of autonomy and the strong relationship of subordination that are typical of the jobs usually held by these workers. In addition, these women are usually young and poor, living in fear of losing their jobs, having had to leave their families in their countries of origin. They do not speak the language of the country of employment, are unaware that they have rights that are being infringed, and usually do not know where to go for help.

Most ILO protective provisions concerning migrant workers apply to immigrants who have been regularly admitted to the territory of a member State. The Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention (No. 143) of 1975 was the first attempt by the international community to deal with the problems arising out of clandestine migration and illegal employment of migrants. That instrument, inter alia:

• lays down the general obligation to respect the basic human rights of all migrant workers, whether or not they entered the country on a regular basis;

• guarantees a number of rights arising out of past employment (as regards remuneration, social security and other benefits) to ensure that illegally employed migrant workers are not deprived of their rights in respect of the work actually performed;

• grants the right of appeal to the migrant worker;

• calls for member States to suppress clandestine movements of migrants for employment and illegal employment, and to sanction the organizers of illicit or clandestine movements of migrants for employment and those who employ workers who have immigrated in illegal conditions.

C. 97: Migration for Employment (Revised), 1949
R. 86: Migration for Employment (Revised), 1949
C. 143: Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions), 1975
R. 151: Migrant Workers, 1975


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