Across the world, workers and their families are on the move: either as a result of conflict, war, climate catastrophes and other disasters - or in search of decent work.

These workers are often among the most vulnerable in our societies; they face racism from xenophobic forces and are often exploited as a cheap, disposable labour force.

As trade unions, it is our duty to fight for their human and labour rights and full access to quality public services to ensure inclusion and solidarity.

PSI fights to protect the human rights of migrants, refugees and forcibly displaced persons and unequivocally says no to fascism, racism and xenophobia.

Migrant Workers by the numbers

12.9 million

health workers will be needed by 2035

in lower-middle income countries.

150 million

international migrant workers today

equivelant to the population of Russia

50 %

of migrant workers are women

who are often especially vulnerable to debt-bondage and exploitation

Defending Migrant Workers' Right to Decent Work

Most of the migration across the world today is led by a search for work.

While labour migration can positively contribute to the economic and social development of countries, it also comes as a consequence of the asymmetries in development between rich and poor countries, with workers struggling to find work elsewhere.

In the public services, skilled health and social care workers in many developing countries are forced to leave their families behind and work abroad to earn a decent income. They brave exploitation and discrimination, and their departure weakens health and social services in their home community.

In the last five years, the migratory phenomenon has become more complex, characterised by an increasing trend in human displacement. Add to this is the displacement caused by climate change and environmental disasters.


Migrant workers in public services

In the public services, migration is more visible in the health and social care sectors. Health workers migrate because of low pay, poor working conditions, lack of facilities and the lack of opportunities for career growth. Health work is undervalued. Women, who comprise the majority of health workers, are disproportionately affected.

Industrialized countries with ageing and shrinking workforce are turning to international recruitment to address their health staffing needs. Given demographic trends and the global shortage, the demand for health and social care workers will continue to rise.

PSI is working to ensure that migration occurs in a fair and ethical manner.

Fair, meaning, it conforms with international human rights norms and labour standards, such as those of the United Nations and International Labour Organization Conventions on migrant workers.

Ethical, meaning, that migration and international recruitment of health workers take into account fairness and equity, ensuring that developing countries are not drained of their critical health workforce while addressing the health workforce needs of all countries.

PSI fights to improve wages and working conditions in order to reduce the economic pressure to migrate, ensure sustainability of the health workforce and defend the quality of public services


This video focuses on the need to build quality public services for refugees in Lebanon. This is part of the PSI project on "Trade Unions, Human Rights and Quality Public Services for Refugees and Migrants in the MENA region" that PSI is implementing in partnership with Union to Union and the PSI Swedish affiliates.

Video: Building quality public services for refugees in Lebanon

Public Services and Forced Displacement

Public services build community resilience and promote inclusion in the face of conflicts, disasters and displacement.

By ensuring quality public services, we address the drivers of migration, including conflict and climate-related forced displacement.

The only way we can tackle challenges such as conflict and climate disasters is by well-funded public infrastructure and services, built to respond to the needs of those who are displaced, whether internal or across borders - and the communities that host them.

Public services are all about the right to health, the right to education, the right to safety, the right to decent shelter, sanitation, the right to public spaces and community life, the right to social protection, the right to social services and the right to decent work.

Public services are public goods that are vital in fighting inequality, in promoting peace and social justice and in supporting inclusive and resilient communities

Forced Displacement Today

68.5 million

forcibly displaced persons worldwide

85 %

of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries

52 %

are under the age of 18

PSI fights for the human rights of migrants, refugees and forcibly displaced persons

We influence Global Migration Policy

PSI influences global governance of migration, displacement and refugee from a union perspective.

We fight privatisation of migration & refugee services

We share strategies on resisting privatisation, promote divestment of corporations and support local campaigns against outsourcing of migrant and refugee services.

We research migration & refugee trends

Through our Research Unit we build the arguments needed to fight for quality public services and migrant worker rights and against privatisation and mistreatment of refugees.

We campaign to end charging of recruitment fees for migrant workers

We lead the campaign to abolish recruitment fees and other charges, which often lead them to debt bondage and exploitation.

We stand with refugees and internally displaced persons

We are running projects in Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria to help build union capacity to support decent work for all workers, including migrants, and defend quality public services for all.

We fight right-wing and fascist xenophobia

Hatred has no place in our communities. We stand with our refugee and migrant comrades when they are under attack.

George Moussa, Water Workers Union, Lebanon Water Workers Union, Lebanon

“I know that the people of this region are good-hearted. We only want peace. When the Syrian refugees arrived, we felt their pain. Because as Lebanese we too have suffered from wars.”


In Lebanon, Georges fights to bring water to his community – and for the rights of refugees. After Syrian refugees fleeing the war settle in Georges’ community, he and his union work to ensure they all have access to safe public drinking water and sanitation.

Solidarity Across Borders (EN) "One Day" Documentary series

George's municipality borders Syria and has received a massive influx of refugees as a result of the Civil War. Along with his Water Workers, he helps bring public water services to displaced families and integrate them into their new home. Learn more about his story via the One Day Video Series.

Take action!

Want to know more about your rights as a migrant worker?

Check out our pre-decision kits

Want to organise a campaign against privatisation of migrant or refugee services?
Know of a case where migrants or refugees have been denied access to quality public services?

Let us know so we can follow up.

Want to join the campaign to fight recruitment fees?

Check out the campaign page for all the materials you need

Want to know more about union organising of migrant workers and refugees?

Check out our union policy paper

Disgusted by the corporations profiting from migrant detention?

Sign the pledge to divest.