As the revolutionary song from John Lennon from the 70’s run chills through your bone “a working-class hero is something to be,” it is hard to imagine a day where we are not benefited from the production or the remittances of labourers. International Labour Day originated from the labour union movement, it aimed at the eight-hour day movement, promoting eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. The first-ever Labor Day celebrations were held on May 1st, 1890 after its decree by the first international congress of socialist parties in Europe on July 14th, 1889 in Paris, France to show solidarity with all the workers of the world.
In Economics, labour means manual labour with mental work undertaken for a fixed reward. Any kind of service which derives income such as the service of doctor, police, army, lawyer, or officer is considered as labour. From the definition of Modern Economist Prof. Marshall, “Any exertion of mind or body has undergone partly or wholly with a view to earning some good other than the pleasure derived directly from the work.” Labour can be of 2 kinds, a) Physical labour and mental labour, b) Skilled and unskilled labour.
Physical labour refers to where physical strength is more needed rather than mental concentration, and mental labour refers to the kind of works where mental fatigue is more required. Workers with a set of skills, training, and knowledge such as an engineer, teacher, or doctor fall under killed labour. Day labourers, factory workers, or a rickshaw puller are considered as unskilled workers. Mostly in the developing counties, we are exporting a remarkable number of labourers who contribute physically, mentally with or without skills to the economic development of developed nations. In Economics, these export of labours and knowledge are not considered as commodities.
Labour migration is protected with rights and regulations and needs to be improved drastically. South Asian countries are trying to open their economies from the 1980s and till now the tariffs and protectionist tendencies have reduced in a notable number. These countries are still having a huge gap in GDP from exports of goods 10% compared to 30% of European countries. Also having a remarkable higher population growth, there are gaps in rural and urban demographic group wage rates and mostly dependent on the informal jobs sector.
The more liberal economy will bring more trade opportunities and that indicates higher economic growth with more employment opportunities. In many of these South Asian nations which are emerging economies, the labourers cannot allow being unemployed because the social safety nets may not be able to cover the unemployed population. The governments should also be more considerate in lifting the restrictions from trade barriers, making facilities for migration to such countries where employment opportunities are abundant and investing in infrastructure for income generation. Deprived women and youth groups should be brought under skills development and opportunities for market linkage should be created.
According to IMF reports, India is the largest recipient of workers’ remittances in the world. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have already seen strong growth in remittances during the past decade and are among the top 20 receivers of remittances. The South Asian region has a large migrant population of semi-skilled, and unskilled workers (largely clustered the Arabian Gulf countries).
There were severe aftershocks in the 1990s for the South Asian countries and the marked instability of cross-border financial flows, workers’ remittances have gained prominence in professional and academic interest as a source of external funding for developing countries. Recently, the income as a source of remittances has appeared as the second-largest source of foreign inflows after foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region. The movement of labourers has always been an integral part of the labour economy.
The exchanges of technology, cultural diversity, and traditional skills have played an enormous part in promoting labor migration. The world’s richest economies enjoy economic development with a remarkable number of contributions from labour remittances. Now, these South Asian countries should focus on great deals to secure the facilities of remittance-receiving institutions, future investment possibilities, and increment of appropriate skills required. South Asian region’s comparative advantage in the export of labor spans several centuries, it had yielded a massive socio-cultural amalgamation across south-east Asia, trade, and commerce networks with the Middle East.
The colonial-era had experienced labour outflows in the first half of the twentieth century – West Indies, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, present-day Myanmar, East Africa and the coastal countries of the Persian Gulf. (IMF report, 2003). One of the major challenges in South Asia is the low female labour force outcome where only 28% of women actively participate in the labour market. Almost 81% of these women are in vulnerable forms of employment. (World Employment Social Outlook Report 2017). The labour migration issues are widely acknowledged globally, but there are vast challenges in both sending and destination countries.
The challenges consist of the migrant workers in both origin and receiving ends. The higher costs of migration, verbal agreements, trickery from agents, lower skills of the workers, and low living standards of at the destination countries. These all could be solved with a common negotiation platform within the South Asian nations and the destination countries with bilateral agreements or multilateral arrangements. The economic impact of these labours are bringing to this part of the world, they deserve an immediate response from the mother country.
We are very proud of the reports on how much growth we are having in the economy by exporting our laborers, the numbers are quite significant and globally it generates a noteworthy impact. But the protection of these workers has not ensured as well as the facilities they receive from both ends. We must ensure international standard labor laws along with working hours, rest and recreation, wages, overtime, leave, healthcare services, and freedom of movement.
There is an urgent need for specific arrangements to look after the welfare of migrant workers including visiting their workplaces, responding to their queries and complaints, and extending consular services to expatriate workers. Ample measures are required to increase financial assistance for stranded workers waiting to be repatriated. Before setting new working destinations, women migrants must be made aware of the safety and security measures abroad, especially protective measures on violence against women and sexual harassment.
There should be soft training on the cultural and behavioral patterns of the host country. The leaflets or reading materials must be developed considering the education level of the workers, audio-visual materials could also be prepared for them which will be handy in new workplaces. Many organizations are already working to ensure the welfare of migrant workers, but a joint approach regionally can change the course and solicit the sacrifices and contributions of the laborers we are exporting.