Improving the health and well-being of children of migrant workers

Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume 95, Number 12, December 2017, 793-852

Improving the health and well-being of children of migrant workers
Catherine Jan, Xiaolin Zhou & Randall S Stafford
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasizes that the states parties to the convention have the responsibility to ensure that children grow up in a family environment with happiness, love and understanding.1 There are almost 1 billion migrants worldwide, with 214 million international migrants and another 740 million internal migrants moving within countries.2 Migrants with children may leave their children behind while pursuing economic opportunities. Although there are no available data on the total number of children left behind globally, several reports on international migrants reflect the magnitude of this phenomenon. The Regional Thematic Working Group on International Migration including Human Trafficking estimates that in east and south-east Asia, one child is left behind for each adult working abroad.3 Similarly, in the Republic of Moldova, the proportion of children younger than 14 years who are left behind is estimated to have increased from 16% to 31% between 2000 and 2004; in Mexico, more than a third of children experience household disruption due to migration.4 The number of children left behind because their parents become internal migrants is even greater, particularly in those areas experiencing rapid urbanization.5
…To mitigate the adverse effects of migration on migrant families and pursue the agenda’s ambitious goals, many governments and child protection systems are increasingly adopting a holistic approach that focuses on poverty reduction, family-oriented education programmes, community support, early identification of risks and provision of specialist services for vulnerable children and their families. Strategies that may improve health outcomes include providing antenatal care, parental leave, child allowance for all families, nursery school for all children aged one to six years (as in some European countries), free medical care for all preschool children (as in Japan) and incentives for health-care professionals to practice in rural regions (as in Australia and New Zealand).9