La migración como oportunidad (en inglés)

Introduction

In recent years, the debate over migration has dominated the policy-making agenda around the world. Jobs are considered to be the motivation for people to move voluntarily, as well as a catalyst for restrictive migration policy. At the same time, facilitating access to the labour market has been at the heart of debates on achieving sustainable livelihoods for refugees and asylum seekers. Added to this are debates around the socioeconomic integration of migrants (OECD, 2017), and calls to fulfil the labour and skills needs of destination countries. So, what do we know about labour mobility initiatives? Do they exist? What do they look like and who do they target? Through a collaboration between the ODI and the London School of Economics (LSE), we looked at evidence of interventions from around the world during the last 20 years that aimed to provide pathways for migrants to improve their livelihood opportunities. Experiences from these interventions need to be known, evaluated and considered in reforming the current system, not least because they prove one fundamental point: beyond the binary and simplistic debate of open versus closed borders, there is a middle ground – one that is based on the kind of incremental experiences that have been instrumental in trying to foster other aspects of globalisation such as trade, climate and human rights. Distinctions are sometimes difficult to make, but official figures suggest that 9 out of 10 migrants moved for economic reasons in 2017.1 About three quarters of the 258 million migrants worldwide come from low- and middle-income countries, with the rest being from high-income countries (UNDESA, 2017). Some 160 million are medium- and low-skilled workers (McKinsey Global Institute, 2016).These migrant workers constitute a force for global development. The very essence of labour migration lies in the huge income differentials that exist globally: a worker from a low-income country can earn significantly more in a high-income country, thus being able to improve standards of living for their families. With multiplier effects in both host and origin countries, this makes migration one of the most powerful poverty reduction instruments (Hagen-Zanker et al., 2017). The chance to take advantage of a wage and productivity gap(Clemens et al., 2008) by moving to a more enabling economic environment allows migrants to multiply their personal income and their contribution to global gross domestic product, which is almost three times larger than their share of the global population (9.4% versus 3.4%) (McKinsey Global Institute, 2016). Mobility unbinds entrepreneurial potential (for both skilled and low-skilled migrants) and provides a demographic bonus to ageing destination societies. In the case of receiving low- and middle-income countries, skilled migrants can make a fundamental contribution by moving up the value chain (OECD, 2017). In social and economic environments as diverse as Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, the UK or the US, skilled migrants underpin destination economies by fulfilling significant skills shortages (e.g. OECD, 2013).From the perspective of origin countries, migrant workers constitute a phenomenal source of income for families and communities through remittances – $429 billion, according to the latest World Bank data for 2016 (World Bank, 2017). But migrants are valuable not only for the income they bring: diasporas and returned migrants can play a critical role in providing ‘social remittances’ that underpin social, economic and democratic reforms at home. Economic migration, however, can also come at a cost. Origin countries can suffer from labour shortages (particularly of skilled and highly educated workers) and those left behind can pay a high price in the form of uprooted families and weakened communities. Migrants also face high levels of vulnerability in relation to social, legal and economic security as well as protection and integration challenges (see for example, Foresti and Hagen-Zanker, 2017). The net result of human mobility can be optimised for the common interest with well-designed, targeted national integration measures and policies that facilitate asylum seekers’ and refugees’ access to work. As we show in the next section, there is no shortage of such attempts from governmental and non-governmental actors.This briefing note begins by mapping the existence and nature of those policy interventions, which cover the full diversity of human mobility. They show that, despite the toxic debates which suggest otherwise, regular pathways for migration do exist and there is a potential for reform. However, while we know that such pathways exist, evidence is lacking on their delivery and impacts. Evidence is crucial to make policies and programmes more adaptable to the needs of destination markets and the capacities of migrants, and regular labour migration more predictable.

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