Briefing Paper

Sharun Mukand
  • A policy shift to liberalize global labour markets could be a key tool for development and poverty reduction. Given the significant benefits globally, economists and policy-makers should devote more attention than at present to the practicalities of relaxing barriers to international labour mobility.
  • The potential gains from the globalization of labour could dwarf those from foreign aid or even the liberalization of trade and capital flows across borders. For example, a decision by developed countries to liberalize immigration restrictions by a mere 3% could result in an estimated output gain of more than $150 billion.
  • Although immigration policy is always controversial, the absence of serious debate in international circles is not due entirely to the distributional impact of labour migration, but in large part to the perceived threat to national identity and culture in destination countries.
  • While permanent migration would yield relatively larger economic gains, temporary labour migration programmes, targeted to specific sectors and more modest in scope, could be the answer and would be far more acceptable and politically sustainable in countries where citizens perceive migrants as a threat to culture and national identity.