The Human Development Report 2009 of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) was launched by the Mauritius UNDP and the Ministry of
Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, at Le Labourdonnais Hotel,
recently. The theme this year was Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility
Year by year, millions of people cross national or international borders in their quest for better living standards. Most migrants, whether internal or international, benefit from migration in many forms: chances to higher incomes, better access to education and health facilities, and improved prospects for their children.
Mobility, together with human development has become the order of the day. We live in a world which is very much mobile, and consequently, immigration is unavoidable. Mobility, in fact, constitutes a very important dimension in the human development which is about putting people at the centre of their development. Thus, it encompasses not just the income that the employment generates, but also the person's well-being.
In his speech, at the launching ceremony, Jean François Chaumière, Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, quoted Prof. Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate for Economics, who said : “Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live.”
Human mobility is, as a matter of fact, on the rise, worldwide. Though migration is an age-old phenomenon, its present scale and particular characteristics make of it an issue of rising global concern.
Worldwide, more than 214 million people are now living outside their country of origin. Mauritius itself has an emigration rate of 12.5%, with 49.7% of the emigrants living in Europe. And in Mauritius, there are 40.8 thousand migrants, which represent 3.3% of the total population.
Economic opportunity, political turmoil, family reunification, war and environmental crisis are some of the core reasons which push people to migrate. Labour mobility has most certainly undergone a major change in recent years.
It is undenuable that the flow of migrants has profound economic security, social, and cultural effects on the countries of origin, and destination. The tables have now turned. Human mobility, formerly considered as an upcoming problem has turned into a process that needs be managed. After all, migration gives a boost to the country, through national economic growth and individual choices of expansion. Thus, circular migration is an area which demands attention.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister Jean-Francois Chaumière explained that “Human Development Reports serve as benchmarks and as reference for measuring human progress, triggering action for change and addressing specific human development approaches to human rights, poverty, education, economic reform, HIV/AIDS and globalisation.”
According to him, the theme of this report is very appropriate to the present context. “It has indeed come at an opportune time when human mobility has become one of the most complex issues facing the world today,” he said.
Human development and mobility can best be explored through the implementation of better policies. The 2009 Human Development Report lays out six pillars of reform which would expand human choices and freedoms. The report also argues for practical measures that can benefit both the destination communities and the places of origin.
The six pillars are the liberalisation and the simplification of the legal frameworks which enable less qualified people to look for jobs in the foreign job market; guarantee of the fundamental rights of the immigrants; reduction of the transaction costs linked to migration; improvement on the impact for the immigrants and the host communities; exploiting the benefits of internal mobility; and integrating mobility to the national development strategies. Each of these six pillars has its own advantages, but a combination of the six would bring better opportunities and would benefit human development and mobility.
Mauritius is mentioned in the report as a small state which made migration a strategic element of development efforts. The report says that there are about 36,000 expatriates living and working in the Mauritian territory, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. It is estimated that expatriates would continue to play a crucial role in the economic development of our island.
On the other hand, as the HRD reports confirm Mauritius has actively encouraged temporary employment abroad, as a way of acquiring skills and capital that migrants can use to set up their own business in return. Supported by donors, government has established a programme that provides technical and financial support to returning migrants.
Another concern which retained the attention of the UNDP is the rights of migrants. The HDR 2009 highlights the Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration, developed by the ILO.
The report also lays emphasis on the role of stakeholders - ranging from government and consular services, to employers, trade unions and NGOs - in ensuring that basic rights of migrants be respected.
At the local level, the government is finalising the Occupational Safety & Health (Employees Lodging Accommodation) Regulations to provide better accommodation to migrant workers.
In addition to these, the Ministry of Labour is presently finalising the Decent Work Country Programme Document, which is expected to impact positively on the quality of life of all workers, including migrant workers.
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