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Impact of labour migration in spotlight at Abu Dhabi forum

Experts from UAE and worldwide will discuss the effects of remittances and worker supply.

ABU DHABI // Policymakers, experts and researchers from around the world are gathering in the capital today to discuss issues surrounding migrant labour.

There are more than 200 million international migrants travelling the globe, according to figures supplied by the World Bank, meaning one in seven people is a migrant labourer.

These workers send home more than US$400 billion (Dh1.47 trillion) to developing countries annually, exceeding the volume of official aid flows.

Abu Dhabi's two-day Labour Mobility conference will be opened by Saqr Ghobash, the Minister of Labour, who will highlight the impact of foreign workers on sustainable development during his keynote address.

The conference is expected to build on the work accomplished during the Abu Dhabi Dialogue and the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

The lead session will examine topics such as access to health and education, empowering workers, the impact of labour mobility on families, human capital and employability.

"I am looking forward to the presentations and the interaction between the presenters and the audience," said Dr George Naufal, an assistant professor of economics at the American University of Sharjah, who will discuss the effects of remittances on the countries wages are sent to.

"All the presenters are pioneers in the field of migration and remittances literature. It will be very interesting to hear what they are working on and the latest research on the link between migration and development."

Government representatives from Bahrain, Kuwait, Sweden and the Philippines will attend, as will officials from the UN, the International Organisation for Migration, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Farrukh Iqbal, country director for GCC countries at the World Bank, will present a session and moderate another.

"Reducing global poverty and increasing shared prosperity are the major goals of the World Bank," he said. "Labour is the principal asset of low-income groups everywhere.

"Enhancing labour income is an important way to share prosperity and reduce poverty."

Researchers from universities in India, Bangladesh and the United States will present the findings of studies on the impact of migrant labour. Academics from local institutions, including Zayed University, the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, and the American University of Sharjah, will also contribute.

Dr Naufal is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labour. His primary research interests include labour economics, with an emphasis on migration and remittances.

"A major positive effect of remittance is relaxing the financial constraint for receiving households," he said. "This allows them to spend more on education and investments and encourages self-employment that could lead to further job creation."

But remittances are also connected to inflation, so can affect the exchange rate and hurt trade.

Money sent from abroad can lead to a lower supply of labour in home countries, Dr Naufal said.

"With the difference in exchange rates, remittance income can be substantially higher than wages," he said. "This ultimately leads to a decrease in the labour supply in the home country. Countries could maximise the benefits of remittances by simply being ready for it. They should have a more efficient financial sector and provide investment opportunities."

Other discussions at the conference will include engaging GCC countries in the global dialogue on migration and development.

rruiz@thenational.ae

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