International Catholic Migration Commission, Switzerland
Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, MSW, ACSW, Secretary General

Migrant couple from Mexico in a room in Chicago, USA, surrounded by signs of their Catholic faith
A Mexican couple who crossed the Rio Grande and desert on their migration journey to Chicago, USA. They are now community leaders there in the Catholic Archdiocese’s parish-based immigration ministry Pastoral Migratoria.

Motivation and Inspirational Grounding for This Reflection and Study on Labor Migration

The inspiration for the participation of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in The Future of Work, Labour After Laudato Sì (FoWLS) initiative1 came largely from its mandate and mission, received in 1951 from Pope Pius XII: "... to unite and organize existing Catholic associations and committees, and to promote, reinforce and coordinate their projects and activities in behalf of migrants and refugees."2 Thus, it seemed only natural for ICMC to engage, together with sister Catholic and other faith-based organizations, in advocacy efforts to ensure decent and dignified work, in conformity with Catholic Doctrine and Tradition, which has been articulated over the span of many centuries. Moreover, since ICMC and its national member Episcopal Conferences have been instrumental in promoting rights-based policies for refugee and migrant workers in all parts of the world, the organization considered it an honor and a privilege to facilitate and coordinate the FoWLS research and experience-sharing track on labor migration.

ICMC is profoundly grateful to Pope Francis for his prophetic teaching and global moral leadership through constant appeals to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate refugees and migrants in today's world. In fact, his Message for the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, observed in January 2014, served as a platform for ICMC's conception and development of the activities, findings, and advocacy messages presented in this book, the title of which also is inspired by that message.3

In his message, Pope Francis noted that "migrations ... point to the aspiration of humanity to enjoy a unity marked by respect for differences, by attitudes of acceptance and hospitality which enable an equitable sharing of the world's goods, and by the protection and the advancement of the dignity and centrality of each human being."4 The Pope's view of migration and refugee movements is grounded in reality; he points out the positive reactions of "solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity" that are encountered within many host communities, but he also notes, with much regret, that these "... exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death." He insists that "migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity." He arrives at the final conclusion that migrant workers, as well as many people on the move, "...are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more."5

Having been raised in a family of Italian immigrants and later finding myself as a migrant in two different countries, the affirmations of Pope Francis found a privileged place in my mind and heart. Moreover, I believe that the reflections, research findings, testimonies, and conclusions of this book all confirm the appeal extended to members of the Catholic Church and to all people of good will in conjunction with his 2014 Message: "We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved."6 

Conceptual Framework for These Efforts

The current phenomenon of mass migration and refugee movements and its relationship to the future of work is influenced by many factors.

Given the pace of demographic changes and adjustments, an important shift in the world population currently is occurring and thus drastically changes the balance between continents and between and within countries. Demographic changes in many so-called "Western" or "Northern" or higher-income countries give witness to progressive ageing of the population and seriously declining birth rates lower than traditional replacement levels. Throughout the world, some populations are ageing at a rapid pace, while, in others, youth, even the very young, represent the largest population groups.

Migrant woman sitting in a chair in a room in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Migrant woman, Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Pope Francis has urged a heart-driven change of perspective from seeing migrants and refugees as “a problem to be solved” to “brothers and sisters” of the global human family “to be welcomed, respected and loved.”

As a result, pressure and demands on the job market are very diverse. When the population growth reaches 2 percent per year, the number of entries into the job market increases each year at a similar pace as a result of age alone, and thus can result in significant tensions. The reality, or at least the perception of this situation, is correlated to important migration trends that seem to be of long duration. The situation of migrants calls for renewed attention to the situation of workers in condition of mobility. Attention to jobs and employment can have a strong impact on the countries of origin, as well as on the countries of transit and destination, and can facilitate successful integration of newcomers as integral contributors and beneficiaries in the host societies.

In addition, millions of migrants and refugees are forced to leave their countries of origin due to long-term structural violence; so-called "failed states," incapable of controlling violence or providing basic infrastructure of minimal social protection and services; and religious, ethnic, racial, social and political persecution.

The photos included in this book are the outcome of a photojournalistic project ICMC undertook within the context of the FoWLS initiative. Mr. Christian Tasso, an award-winning photojournalist, visited four countries: India, Ivory Coast, Mexico, and the United States of America. Thanks to the support of a broad range of local partners in these countries, he was able to directly listen to and portray, with keen sensitivity, "the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties"7 of migrants themselves, who must be recognized as our teachers in any study or discussion of the challenges and opportunities they have faced during their journeys through countries of origin, transit, and destination. A selection of his work has been published in the book Driven by the Depth of Love, Stories of Migrants.8

Child in a slum neighborhood street in Bangalore, India, where the Indian Social Institute works
Indigenous migrant child, Bangalore, India. For Pope Francis, migrant workers, including children, who leave behind home and all that is familiar, “share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”

Thus, ICMC is pleased to share these reflections, research findings, and collection of good practices, undertaken in partnership with professional migration research centers and faith-based organizations that are active in service and advocacy for and with migrants and refugees and prioritize the voices of people on the move themselves. In such exercises, we aimed to study, analyze, and disseminate the labor-related experiences of migrants, including the drivers of their decisions to migrate or to exercise their right to remain at home or eventually to return. We also examined other crucial life choices in their countries of origin, transit, and destination. All these efforts were carried out against the backdrop of the Laudato Sì encyclical and other foundational values and principles contained in Catholic Church Teaching and Tradition and in other religious traditions.


I close this introduction by offering thanks to the funders and partners of the FoWLS initiative and the authors and partners who contribute to this specific labor migration initiative. Most of all, I express my profound thanks to the migrants and refugees who intimately shared their stories as well as their hearts and souls to help us learn their migration experiences, striving to "become more" through their respective pilgrimages "Towards a Better World." I believe the following testimony of a Mexican couple (pictured above), now living and working in Chicago but also engaged in service to migrant sisters and brothers there, captures the purpose, output, and way forward presented in this report:

We crossed the Rio Grande and then the desert. When you live through these experiences, what you see and feel remains within you for the rest of your life. When you arrive here [Chicago], the shock is great. We have learned English thanks to our children and their homework. We are proud of what we are: migrants. Seeing many challenges, we realized that we had to help our community, create a network to support our brothers and sisters. So, we are involved in Pastoral Migratoria. We like to call it our second job, and it's more important than the first.

Our hope is that these joint efforts, by ICMC and all our partners, will contribute to the prayerful encouragement so candidly offered by Pope Francis, himself a son of migrants, in his Message for the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014:

Dear migrants and refugees! Never lose the hope that you too are facing a more secure future, that on your journey you will encounter an outstretched hand, and that you can experience fraternal solidarity and the warmth of friendship! To all of you, and to those who have devoted their lives and their efforts to helping you, I give the assurance of my prayers and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.9

  1. This global project aimed to provide Catholic-inspired and other faith-based organizations with the capacity to contribute jointly to the promotion and implementation of Laudato Sì in areas related to work and to dialogue with employers and workers organizations on this matter. The project brought together, in particular, Christian business associations, international movements, local communities, Conferences of Catholic Bishops, Jesuit and other religious social and research centers and universities, and organizations from other religious traditions. This initiative involved six tracks of research on the future of work as well as collection of good practice and capacity-building models and was proposed after five years of collaboration at the global level related to the Sustainable Development Goals. ICMC led the research track on "Jobs, demography and migration," which yielded findings that are included in a summary form in section 2 of this book, as well as in D. Kerwin's integrative piece in section 1. The FoWLS initiative also was engaged in the promotion and observance of the ILO Centenary and its Future of Work Initiative, cf.
  2. Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia Nazarethana, 1952,
  3. Pope Francis, Message for the 100thWorld Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2014: Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World,
  4. Pope Francis, Message for the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, op. cit.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Pastoral Constitution on "The Church in the Modern World," promulgated by Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965,
  8. Christian Tasso, Driven by the Depth of Love, Stories of Migrants, ICMC, 2020. Online version:
  9. Ibid.