Poverty reduction sought through skilled labour migration

Up to 300,000 migrants, especially women from Cambodia, Lao and Myanmar heading to or returning from Thailand, are set to benefit from safer migration, improved skills development and better job opportunities over the next four years through a regional programme launched on Friday in Bangkok by IOM.

The USD 8.3 million Poverty Reduction through Safe Migration, Skills Development and Enhanced Job Placement in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Thailand project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) aims to improve the employability of migrants; to promote safe migration from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar into Thailand; and to contribute to poverty reduction in the region.

The programme will be led by IOM, and co-implemented by UN Women, in partnership with the private sector, regional bodies, participating country governments, national training institutions, civil society and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Most migration to Thailand involves low or medium-skilled migrants, according to an IOM-ILO joint baseline survey carried out in the PROMISE inception phase. Migrant women often have disproportionately lower levels of education than migrant men.  Low skill levels of migrants from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar have a negative effect on their wages, saving rates and remittances.

Technical and vocational training structures in the countries of origin rarely include migrants and do not correspond to the needs of the Thai labour market. The survey findings also suggest that migrants who gain valuable skills when working in Thailand rarely plan to use them when they return home.

To address these challenges, private sector engagement is at the core of PROMISE initiative in recognition of the critical role of employers in ensuring greater protection of migrant workers. The programme will establish partnerships with employers in Thailand and skill development partners in the countries of origin to develop new cross-border models of market-driven migrant skills training. It will also improve access to skills training for migrants already working in Thailand in construction, manufacturing and hospitality.

Other programme components will focus on migrant protection through the promotion of ethical recruitment, migrant worker empowerment and support to regional, bilateral and national efforts in these areas. In addition, PROMISE will also broaden opportunities for returning migrants to use their human, social and financial capital through enhanced job placement services and entrepreneurial support.

Speaking at the PROMISE launch in Bangkok, IOM Thailand Chief of Mission Dana Graber Ladek highlighted the positive planned outcomes of the project. “With PROMISE, IOM and partners want to expand migrants’ access to skills development, ethical recruitment and protection. This benefits not just the migrants and their families, but also the economies and societies of both countries of origin and destination,” she said.


“Switzerland has a strong tradition of assisting the Mekong Sub-region in poverty alleviation. Through SDC, Switzerland is therefore proud to support and finance PROMISE to help Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Tim Enderlin, SDC Director of Cooperation for the Mekong Region.

Thailand is the main country of destination for migrants from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. With falling fertility rates and an ageing population, the country relies on an estimated five million migrant workers to plug labour shortages.


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