New study revealed the lack of harmonisation of national labour policies with ECOWAS protocols, and laws on trade and immigration for instance did not allow ECOWAS nationals equal opportunities for employment in all sectors.
A study conducted on; “Facilitating Intra Regional Labour Migration in ECOWAS,” has revealed wide gaps between the demand for labour and supply, with supply outstripping demand in the region.
There is also no formal framework that guides the sharing of labour market information derived from the myriad of sources.
Intra-regional labour migration flows are also dominated by a north-south movement from countries of Sahel West Africa to the mineral-rich and plantation-rich coastal countries, while majority of West African migrants are not highly educated and tend to work in the informal sector as traders, artisans and farmers.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, headed by Professor Mariama Awumbila, also revealed that there was no functional labour market information in place and where some form of Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS) existed, they were not operational.
It stated that though in principle ECOWAS member states had ratified the Free Movement Protocol, yet in practice, restrictive policies and initiatives by member states to protect sectors of their economies for their nationals still existed.
The study also affirms that the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and establishment along with the Supplementary Protocols express the determination of member states of ECOWAS to place intra-regional movement at the heart of the regional integration process to prevent harassment at the borders.
Due to concerns about unauthorised migration, neither the second nor the third phases of implementation of the Protocol have led to free rights of residence or establishment in member states.
“Although ECOWAS migrants are expected to have equal opportunities as nationals, many countries have provisions in their labour laws and regulations that preserve certain public sector jobs for their nationals,” the study said.
It said lack of harmonisation of national labour policies with ECOWAS protocols, and laws on trade and immigration for instance did not allow ECOWAS nationals equal opportunities for employment in all sectors.
It, therefore, stressed the need to conduct periodic labour market and migration surveys to ascertain labour needs and supply to ensure regular updates of migration and labour market information at national levels.
It also called for promoting broader social, political and economic policies aimed at transforming national economies and creating opportunities for sustained job creation for young people in ECOWAS countries.
The study called for the establishment of structures to address migration issues and in particular to establish mechanisms for the registration and settlement of complaints of harassment and abuses of human rights of community citizens.
It called for promotion of periodic studies on intra-regional migration and the implementation of its protocols and identifying the practical challenges in the implementation of the protocols.
The study recommended the deepening of dialogue with national authorities to ensure application and implementation of all phases of the Protocol and the Action Plan and enshrine them in national laws.
There is the need to “transform border control and security officials’ roles into that of migration management. Training should also include a component addressing ways of identifying people in need of protection and respect for the rights of migrants in accordance with international norms and conventions,” it said.