Labour migration in Belarus: from challenges to opportunities
In Belarus, both incoming and outgoing labour migration play a significant role in the socio-economic development. Since 2009, the number of labour immigrants annually exceeds the number of Belarusians going to work abroad.
While migrants coming to work in the country are traditionally viewed as a valuable addition to the national labor market ensuring a balance between the supply and demand, labour emigration is often seen as a risk.
However, if well-managed, labour migration can contribute to development through migrant remittances that can be used for investments, an opportunity to develop entrepreneurship in the country and overall a contribution to the financial stability of households, as well as the national economy.
In 2021, remittances accounted to 1.29% of the GDP but the potential is much higher. The importance of remittances for development has been acknowledged in the UN Sustainable Development, amongst others by setting the goal to reduce the cost of remittance transfers.
To support Belarus’ attempts to use labor migration for development, since 2021 IOM Belarus has been implementing the country’s first project on labor migration – “Maximizing the impact of migration and labour mobility in the sustainable development of Belarus” - funded by the IOM Development Fund (IDF).
The project is inspired by the idea that if properly managed, labour migration would not only generate gains for the Belarus’ economy, but also serve as a safeguard of the human rights of migrant workers who are at a higher high risk of human trafficking and forced labour as compared to local populations.
To drive maximum benefits from labour migration, key national partners – migration and labour authorities of Belarus at the regional and national levels – need knowledge and practical skills in effective labor migration management with a focus on remittances and labour migrants’ protection. Up until spring this year, no comprehensive capacity development interventions have been carried out with a view to building and maintaining a positive narrative on labour migration among state officials.
On the back of the assessment on labour migration and remittances and online course on labour migration launched by IOM Belarus earlier this year, IOM Mission in Belarus supported by IOM Regional Office in Vienna delivered six (6) trainings “Effective labor migration management with a focus on remittances and labour migrants’ rights protection” in all six regions of Belarus. Through the innovative training series, IOM has enabled the Government of Belarus to respond holistically to labour migration challenges and opportunities and promote a comprehensive approach to labour migrants’ protection and assistance provision.
“During the discussions and group work, we saw how relevant the topic of labour migration in the Belarusian context is and how important it was to create a space for participants from different cities and departments to exchange experiences. In one exercise, we asked the participants to do a stakeholder mapping. They usually had lively discussions on the different actors and their roles during labour migration. One group even drew a map putting the migrant workers in the center and following them through the different stages of the process. In the end, we could observe an increased understanding among participants about the benefits of external labour migration for development, for example, through remittances or skills transfers, but also the importance of ensuring the protection of migrant workers”, commented one of the trainers, Regional Labor Mobility and Human Development Assistant Maria Bessermann.
Questionnaires filled in by the participants before and after the event show that participants have increased their knowledge of labor migration, remittances and protection of migrants by 69 per cent.
It is expected that the enhanced knowledge of specialists across the country will ensure a human rights-based approach to migrants in every city and region of Belarus, which will further strengthen the well-being of migrants, while leveraging the potential of migration for the country’s sustainable development.
For more information please contact Hanna Kalichava in IOM Minsk at email@example.com