A Labor Mobility Agenda for Development
Rich countries have made efforts for half a century to help people in poor countries catch up to rich-country standards of living. Those efforts have included giving foreign aid, encouraging overseas investment, dismantling trade barriers, and spreading ideas and institutions. That is, their international development policy has been to encourage the globalization of almost all factors of production—except labor. So far, this policy has failed to cause the living standards of most people in most developing countries to converge with living standards in rich countries. But the globalization of labor—greater mobility for workers across borders—quickly and massively raises migrants’ living standards toward those of rich countries. This paper argues that every rich country should consider its immigration policy to be part of its international development policy, and vice versa. A development policy that includes migration will be more effective; an immigration policy that includes development will better serve rich countries’ ideals and interests. The paper also gives a non-technical review of new research on several common objections to unifying development policy and migration policy. One concrete way forward is for rich countries to greatly open up legal pathways for temporary labor movement.
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