Labor Immigration Policy and the Rights of Migrant Workers: An Empirical Analysis of 46 High- and Middle-Income Countries
42 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
There is a large gap between the comprehensive set of rights of migrant workers (“migrant rights”) stipulated in international human rights law and the much more limited rights granted by national laws and policies to many migrants working in high- and middle-income countries. To understand why, when and how nation-states restrict migrant workers’ rights, and to discuss what rights migrant workers should have, we need to consider the potential inter-relationships between migrant rights on the one hand, and national policies for admitting migrant workers on the other hand. To study these inter-relationships in practice, this paper constructs and analyses two separate indexes that measure: (i) the ‘openness’ of over 100 labor immigration programs in 46 high- and middle-income countries to admitting migrant workers; and (ii) the legal rights (civil and political, economic, social, residency, and family reunion rights) granted to migrant workers after admission. The analysis distinguishes between policies toward low-, medium-, and high-skilled migrant workers. The paper uses these indexes to identify key features and variations of labor immigration programs in high- and middle-income countries. The analysis suggests that both openness and some migrant rights are positively related to the skill level targeted by the labor immigration program (i.e. programs designed to admit and employ higher-skilled migrants are more open and grant more rights than programs targeting lower-skilled migrants). For upper high-income countries, the paper also finds some evidence of a trade-off (i.e. a negative relationship) between openness and certain specific migrant rights in programs targeting specific skill groups of migrants (i.e. programs that are more open to admitting migrant workers also impose greater restrictions on specific migrant rights).
Keywords: migrant rights, labor immigration policy, high- and middle-income countries
JEL Classification: F22, J00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation