The International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff discussion paper that was presented by C. Lagarde at the World Economic Forum called for ‘temporary and limited derogations of the minimum wage for refugees’ – a proposal that has met strong rejection by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and other global union federations such as EI. 

The 50-page report, which “focuses on the economic dimension of the refugee challenge facing Europe”, indicates first that “the potential from refugees can be harnessed for the benefit of all”, but then goes on to suggest that this needs a swift integration of migrants into the economy, through the labour market and an adapted two-tiered system based on different labour conditions.

Education International (EI) has endorsed ITUC’s call to international leaders to withhold from promoting excluding policies that would affect refugee workers’ basic rights, and to create opportunities that would instead enable them to find a fair place in the labour market.

The ITUC warns that urging such a two-tiered wage structure “based solely on the basis of a worker’s migratory status is discriminatory, runs contrary to international law and is not economically sound”. Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen has seconded the ITUC’s worries that any suggestion that refugees should be subjected to unequal treatment “risks endorsing the view of those who see refugee populations as unworthy of being full members of their communities, as well as increasing the anxiety of low wage workers (…) who fear that increased competition for scarce jobs will harm the prospects for them and their families.  Neither of these developments would support the constructive cause the IMF purports to advance.”