Labor mobility

  • Circular migration

    Why restricting labor mobility can be counterproductive

    In the popular immigration narrative, migrants leave one country and establish themselves permanently in another, creating a “brain drain” in the sending country. In reality, migration is typically temporary: Workers migrate, find employment, and then return home or move on, often multiple times. Sending countries benefit from remittances while workers are abroad and from enhanced human capital when they return, while receiving countries fill labor shortages. Policies impeding circular migration can be costly to both sending and receiving countries.
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  • Roma integration in European labor markets

    Nuclei of evidence tell a grim story, but a veil of ignorance impedes policy efforts

    Martin Kahanec, May 2014
    The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe—as well as one of the most disadvantaged. A triple vicious circle is at play: Substandard socio-economic outcomes reinforce each other; they fuel negative attitudes and perceptions, leading to ill-chosen policies; and segmentation is perpetuated through (statistical) discrimination. A severe lack of data precludes progress. However, existing bits of evidence point to virtuous ways out.
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  • Post-enlargement emigration and new EU members’ labor markets

    Outmigration has contributed to increasing wages and decreasing unemployment in the new EU member states but may also cause skills shortages

    Anzelika Zaiceva, August 2014
    The recent EU enlargements into Central and Eastern Europe and increased labor mobility within the Union provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the labor market effects of emigration. Outmigration has contributed to higher wages for stayers, as well as to lower unemployment in the source country. However, emigration has also exacerbated skills shortages in some sectors, as well as mismatches between skills and jobs.
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  • Freedom of movement for workers

    Relaxing immigration restrictions could greatly improve the well-being of people in developing countries, with little effect on wages

    John Kennan, September 2014
    Most developed countries have foreign aid programs that aim to alleviate poverty and foster economic growth in less developed countries, but with very limited success. A large body of evidence indicates that the root of the economic development problem is cross-country differences in the productivity of labor. If workers are much more productive in one country than in another, the obvious way to help people in less developed countries is to allow them to help themselves by moving to places where they can be more productive. Yet immigration laws severely constrain such movement.
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  • Income of immigrants and their return

    Both low- and high-income immigrants stay for a relatively short time

    Govert E. Bijwaard, April 2015
    The majority of immigrants stay only temporarily in the host country. When many migrations are temporary, it is important to know who leaves and who stays, and why. The key questions for the host country are whether immigrants are net contributors to the welfare system and whether migrants assimilate quickly. The key questions for the home country are whether migrants return and who returns. The host country gains when unsuccessful migrants leave, while the home country may gain when successful migrants leave. Empirical evidence reveals that both low-income-earning and high-income-earning migrants leave the host country quite soon.
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  • Do minimum wages induce immigration?

    The minimum wage affects international migration flows and the internal relocation of immigrants

    Corrado Giulietti, May 2015
    An increase in the minimum wage in immigrant destination countries raises the earnings that low-skilled migrants could expect to attain if they were to migrate. While some studies for the US indicate that a higher minimum wage induces immigration, contrasting evidence shows that immigrants are less likely to move into areas with higher or more frequent increases in the minimum wage. These different findings seem to reflect different relocation decisions by immigrants who have lived in the US for several years, who are more likely to move in response to higher minimum wages, and by new immigrants, who are less likely to move.
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  • Offshoring and the migration of jobs

    Offshoring has little net effect on domestic employment, while pushing domestic workers toward more complex jobs

    Gianmarco Ottaviano, July 2015
    The impact of offshoring on domestic jobs is more complicated than it first appears. In the standard narrative, offshoring production is thought to harm domestic workers by providing cheap alternative sources of labor. However, while offshoring may directly displace domestic workers, the resulting foreign market access and lower production costs allow domestic firms to increase efficiency, expand production, and thus create new jobs for domestic workers. These new jobs often involve more complex tasks, as revealed by the positive relation between the share of offshored jobs and the average cognitive and interactive task content of domestic jobs.
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  • Language and culture as drivers of migration

    Linguistic and cultural barriers affect international migration flows

    Alicía Adserà, July 2015
    As migration flows to developed countries have increased in recent decades, so have the number of countries from which migrants arrive. Thus, it is increasingly important to consider what role differences in culture and language play in migration decisions. Recent work shows that culture and language may explain migration patterns to developed countries even better than traditional economic variables, such as income per capita and unemployment rates in destination and origin countries. Differences in culture and language may create barriers that prevent the full realization of the potential economic gains from international mobility.
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  • Does corruption promote emigration?

    Corruption is a driving force of emigration, especially for high-skilled workers, but also for other workers

    Friedrich Schneider, October 2015
    Knowing whether corruption leads to higher emigration rates—and among which groups—is important because most labor emigration is from developing to developed countries. If corruption leads highly-skilled and highly-educated workers to leave developing countries, it can result in a shortage of skilled labor and slower economic growth. In turn, this leads to higher unemployment, lowering the returns to human capital and encouraging further emigration. Corruption also shifts public spending from health and education to sectors with less transparency in spending, disadvantaging lower-skilled workers and encouraging them to emigrate.
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  • Smart policy toward high-skill emigrants

    Many proposed policies on skilled migration do little to improve skill stocks or development outcomes, but promising options exist

    Michael A. Clemens, November 2015
    Immigration officials in rich countries are being asked to become overseas development officials, charged with preventing skilled workers from leaving poor countries, where their skills are needed. Some advocates urge restrictions or taxes on the emigration of doctors and engineers from developing countries. Others urge incentives to encourage skilled workers to remain or return home or policies to facilitate their interactions with home countries. Regulations often reflect compassionate and political sentiments without clear evidence that the regulations achieve the desired development goals and avoid pernicious side effects.
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