Stéphanie Winet, GFMD Business Mechanism Liaison Adviser, International Organisation of Employers (IOE), Geneva
In the past years, a great deal of effort has been made through thematic meetings, regional initiatives, and informal consultations, to start to pave the way to bring business leaders to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) table. Determined to fill the empty seat at the GFMD, the Business Mechanism was created at the 2015 Summit in Istanbul as a pilot, coordinated by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Migration. The Business Mechanism was endorsed as a permanent feature of the GFMD at the 2016 Summit in Dhaka.
What is the GFMD Business Mechanism?
The GFMD Business Mechanism serves as a channel to bring the voice of business to the GFMD. Its purpose is to facilitate sustained interaction between migration policy makers and business leaders to maximize the benefits of migration, while at the same time minimizing the risks. There is a mutual interest between governments, the private sector, and civil society, to promote more transparent, effective and humane migration policies, taking into account labour market needs. The participation of business in the GFMD will help governments to better understand how migration policies and practices affect business operations at the national level. It will also enable private sector representatives to actively contribute to migration policy debates.
How do employers regard migration?
Employers regard migration as a necessary and positive phenomenon. Inclusive growth and sustainable development require open markets, competitiveness, and innovation – and all of these imply robust and coherent policies to facilitate the movement of people. Migration is a vehicle for fulfilling personal aspirations, for balancing labour supply and demand, for sparking innovation, and for transferring and spreading skills. Coordinated, well-regulated, and well-managed migration policies are an essential part of a well-functioning labour market, and deeper engagement with the private sector is an important component in devising and implementing such policies. The employers' responsibility here is not only to illuminate obstacles and help identify future needs, but also to do their share in developing workforce skills and life-long learning programmes. Engaging with employers, notably small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), can also help identify skills gaps, across the spectrum of skill levels.
Which topics are covered by the GFMD Business Mechanism?
Thanks to the power of the networks of both coordinators - the IOE and the WEF - the Business Mechanism has built a strong community of business leaders engaged in migration-related issues. These leaders represent various sectors, across all regions of the world and of all sizes. They have identified four key policy issues: (1) the global need for workforce mobility; (2) fair and ethical recruitment; (3) refugees' access to labour markets, and; (4) the role of entrepreneurship and circular migration for development. These topics will be addressed, while taking into account the role of business in promoting a positive narrative and in countering the current negative rhetoric that is having a devastating impact on rational policy-making. Businesses can play a role in highlighting the benefits of migration to their own operations and to the societies in which they are established.
Why does business have an interest in the success of this venture?
The need for labour migration and the integration of migrants in labour markets around the world is already urgent, and it will only grow in coming years. The drivers are mostly demographic: developed economies are characterized by ageing populations and falling birth rates. The shrinking domestic labour pool means shortages of workers at all skills levels, and in many places, there is also a serious skills gap. This gap creates a need for high- and low-skilled foreign workers in myriad industries.
By meeting labour market needs, migrants increase productivity and raise consumption, thereby generating additional jobs, and benefiting society at large. Migrants contribute to diversity, bring new skills, and increase innovation and productivity. But labour markets are not necessarily equipped to employ migrants to their full potential. Better adapting labour migration systems to employers' needs is important for all parties.
Coordinated migration policies are also necessary to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights. Employers, as citizens, do of course have an ethical stake in ensuring that the communities in which they live and do business respect human rights. But the rights of migrants are far from being only an ethical responsibility; they are a legal obligation and have an economic impact. The abuse of migrant labour, human trafficking, unethical recruitment, and supply chains that lack transparency can cause severe reputational and financial damage to companies.
Looking ahead, what are the plans for the GFMD Business Mechanism?
A position paper, called the Business case for Migration, was presented at the 2016 GFMD Summit in Dhaka. The paper addresses the recommendations and roles of the private sector in promoting a coherent and comprehensive migration strategy. The goals include working toward a regulatory environment in which labour migration policies support business and development to create jobs, facilitate global workforce mobility, match skills to labour market needs and ensure fair recruitment practices. The Business Mechanism will further analyse the contributions that the private sector can make to the Global Compact on Migration, to be adopted by UN member states in 2018. The Business Mechanism will expand its network to ensure that the voice of small companies, and companies from all regions, are duly represented. Private corporations are encouraged to participate in the dialogue and invited to a business meeting on 3 – 4 April in Geneva, in preparation for the 2017 GFMD Summit.