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The Impact of Irregular Status on Human Development Outcomes for Migrants

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  • Rachel Sabates-Wheeler

    () (Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex)

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore how irregular status impacts a range of human development outcomes for labour migrants. The analysis indicates that for poorer labour migrants, irregular (or undocumented) migration provides a positive, private return to income and livelihood improvements for themselves and their families as compared to 1) no movement at all, and at times, 2) regular (or documented) migration. However, irregular status is associated with a range of forms of disadvantage and vulnerabilities that often compromise migrants’ rights, entitlements and the rate of return they achieve from the migration process. Migrants are as rational as other members of the population and, being aware of these vulnerabilities, many still choose to migrate. The larger hypothesis of this paper is that, as long as poverty drives migration, legal status will not be a priority for migrants. Migrants will be willing to endure short to medium term hardship and the undermining of a range of capabilities and rights (such as education, social assets, rights and personal welfare) to provide economic safety nets for their families and future improvements to their (and their families) livelihoods and wellbeing. As long as migrants on average achieve a positive increase in income and assets through the migration experience (which they do) they will sacrifice a whole range of freedoms and rights. It is therefore imperative that policy makers make active steps to protect migrants with regard to basic human rights and facilitate positive outcomes from their migration experiences. In particular, we urge southern governments to advocate for all their migrants abroad, regardless of legal status. If southern country governments accept the mainstream opinion that migration is good for development, and furthermore recognise that a substantial number, if not the majority, of their migrants are irregular, and continue sending remittances and investment, then governments should seek to protect their citizens aboard, facilitate safe remittances, and begin to stand firm in the face of pressure to control national borders.

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, 2009. "The Impact of Irregular Status on Human Development Outcomes for Migrants," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2009-26, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revised Jul 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdr:papers:hdrp-2009-26
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    File URL: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2009/papers/HDRP_2009_26.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Neeraj Kaushal, 2006. "Amnesty Programs and the Labor Market Outcomes of Undocumented Workers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
    2. repec:ilo:ilowps:374787 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Katharine Donato & Jorge Durand & Douglas Massey, 1992. "Stemming the tide? Assessing the deterrent effects of the immigration reform and control act," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 29(2), pages 139-157, May.
    4. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Cynthia Bansak, 2006. "Money Transfers among Banked and Unbanked Mexican Immigrants," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 374-401, October.
    5. Liemt, Gijsbert van., 2004. "Human trafficking in Europe : an economic perspective," ILO Working Papers 993747873402676, International Labour Organization.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Irregular status; migration; vulnerability; poverty; protection;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration

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