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Gender sensitivity in labour migration agreements and MOUs

Gender sensitivity in labour migration agreements and MOUs

by IDWFED published Apr 07, 2016 12:00 AM
Contributors: ILO
Global Action Programme on Migrant Domestic Workers - Research series in support of June 2016 project report release. Based on a report elaborated by Lin Lean Lim.

Resource Type

Research reports, working paper



Bilateral Labour Agreements (BLAs) and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) on labour migration have greatly increased in recent years.

The value of such agreements has been recognized as facilitating and managing cross-border movement of temporary, mainly “low-skilled”, workers – including migrant domestic workers – and protecting their rights. However, the BLAs/MOUs vary significantly in scope (in terms of the sectors and issues covered), the inclusion or lack of implementation and monitoring mechanisms, and their effectiveness which translates into different outcomes for the origin and destination countries and, very importantly, for the MDWs themselves. A serious concern is that “as they are conceived, negotiated and implemented at
present, they largely ignore gender issues and lack gender-sensitive monitoring mechanisms. In fact on reviewing a number of agreements, it becomes clear that only a small number contain specific provisions concerning women or gender”.

This is highly significant given that women make up nearly 75 percent of all MDWs in the world, some 8.5 million individuals.
In order to understand why it is important to take into account gender in BLAs and MOUs, it is essential to clarify what it means for BLAs/MOUs to be gender-sensitive, and distinguish different types of BLAs/MOUs in terms of their gender impacts and implications. Examples from a few selected agreements are helpful in illustrating “good” and “bad” practices in incorporating gender considerations.

It is also important to look at how source and destination countries can use BLA/MOUs to promote gender equality and non-discrimination as human rights, including protecting vulnerable women migrants from discrimination, exploitation and violence. Finally, this work seeks to stimulate discussion among the main actors in source and destination countries on why and how to develop, implement and monitor gender-sensitive BLAs/MOUs.


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