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Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) Executive Director Lynn Shotwell recently delivered policy recommendations to an international gathering of business leaders, government officials and nongovernmental organizations, highlighting the importance of greater private-sector engagement in tackling global migration challenges.
CFGI is a strategic affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management, and comprises more than 200 corporations, universities and research institutions engaged in the global movement of talent.
Shotwell spoke Dec. 11 at the ninth summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The recommendations she presented were developed by the members of the GFMD Business Mechanism, a group of business leaders focused on engaging the private sector in developing migration policy. The group's goals include working toward a regulatory environment in which labor migration policies support business and development to create jobs, facilitate global workforce mobility, match skills to labor market needs and ensure fair recruitment practices.
"Smart employment-based immigration policies that promote fairness, innovation and competitiveness are critical to continued economic growth in the United States and around the world," Shotwell said. "These recommendations serve as a valuable road map for business leaders and policymakers confronted with a rapidly evolving global migration landscape that presents both great uncertainty and great opportunity."
The gathering of policymakers took place in the midst of the continuing worldwide migration and refugee crisis.
"Some countries are facing the labor market impact of aging populations and falling birth rates, and increasingly need large numbers of foreign workers to compensate for declining domestic population, while others have large, increasingly educated populations that seek employment," said Austin T. Fragomen Jr., chairman of the GFMD Business Advisory Group. Fragomen is also chairman of CFGI and partner and chairman of Fragomen Global, an international immigration law firm based in New York City.
There were more than 244 million migrants worldwide in 2015, up from 232 million in 2013 and 175 million in 2000, according to the United Nations Population Fund. More than 150 million of those individuals are labor migrants.
Fragomen said that current migration systems and frameworks, which were developed decades ago, have proven inadequate to deal with the present-day situation.
The priorities outlined in the recommendations included:
Robust labor migration governance. An efficient labor migration system should be able to address labor market needs, spur innovation, fill skills gaps and promote development. "Companies face increasing hurdles in obtaining visas and work permits for all employment types and durations, but are particularly challenged when sponsored employees [are needed to] work in short- and medium-term assignments—those most characteristic to the evolving nature of work," Shotwell said. She added that additional legal pathways are needed for:
Fair and ethical recruitment. Recruiters and other employment service providers match workers with international employment opportunities. "Because recruiters are often the first entry point to international employment for many foreign nationals, it is imperative to promote the responsible and ethical agencies that ensure high-quality recruitment standards that protect migrant workers throughout the recruitment process," Fragomen said.
[SHRM members-only toolkit: What steps can I take to prepare our organization to recruit globally?]
The GFMD Business Mechanism recommended that governments enforce existing laws and facilitate employer portability to prevent exploitative labor recruitment, work with stakeholders to identify regulatory gaps that enable exploitative recruitment practices, and develop compliance tools and promote efforts to inform foreign workers of their rights and protections.
Public- and private-sector engagement on circular migration. To avoid the negative impact of "brain drain" on the countries losing labor, organizations and governments should promote and encourage voluntary circular migration as well as an efficient flow of remittances to foster development in both home and host economies.
Corporate refugee aid. The group recommended that governments reduce barriers to refugee employment, integration and travel. "Direct employment of refugees is one of the clearest ways private organizations can help," Fragomen said. "However … employers face significant challenges in recruiting and hiring from this population. Lack of skills and qualifications and language barriers are some of the practical challenges. But the most difficult hurdle is the challenge of obtaining and maintaining work authorization for refugees."
Business advocacy. Businesses should highlight the benefits of well-managed migration and counter xenophobia by promoting the economic, social and cultural contributions of migrants.
The next GFMD summit is planned for Germany in June 2017.
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