IZA World of Labor
key topic

How does migration policy affect the labor market?

Migration policy deals with issues of national and international mobility, such as demand and supply of workers, and what migration means for natives and migrants and for sending and receiving countries.

  • The changing nature of citizenship legislation

    Concepts of citizenship are not universally defined and need rethinking

    Chiara Strozzi, December 2016
    Citizenship laws are changing in many countries. Although cross-national differences in the laws regulating access to citizenship are today not as large as they were several decades ago, they are still very apparent. Globally, there is convergence over some citizenship policy dimensions, but there is not a general convergence over “liberal” or “restrictive” approaches to citizenship policy. A growing body of research has put forward various comparative measures of citizenship and migrant integration policies. However, selecting the “right” index is a challenging task, and the underlying dynamics of citizenship laws are not easy to interpret as they differ across countries.
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  • Integrating refugees into labor markets

    Economic integration of refugees into their host country is important and benefits both parties

    For the first time since the Second World War, the total number of refugees amounts to more than 50 million people. Only a minority of these refugees seek asylum, and even fewer resettle in developed countries. At the same time, politicians, the media, and the public are worried about a lack of economic integration. Refugees start at a lower employment and income level, but subsequently “catch up” to the level of family unification migrants. However, both refugees and family migrants do not “catch up” to the economic integration levels of labor migrants. A faster integration process would significantly benefit refugees and their new host countries.
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  • Legalizing undocumented immigrants

    While legalization benefits most undocumented immigrants, deciding how to regularize them is challenging

    Cynthia Bansak, March 2016
    Addressing unauthorized immigration is controversial. Countries have adopted a variety of legalization programs, ranging from temporary visa programs to naturalization. Research in the US focused on past amnesty programs finds improved labor market outcomes for newly legalized immigrants. Findings are more mixed for European countries. Studies suggest that regularization of undocumented immigrants can result in increased use of public benefits and reduced formal labor market participation. Despite widespread disagreement, legalization is widely used in practice.
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  • Can market mechanisms solve the refugee crisis?

    Combining tradable quotas and matching are efficient market solutions that would also protect refugee rights

    The unequal distribution of refugees across countries could unravel the international refugee protection system or, in the case of the EU, hinder a common policy response to refugee crises. A way to distribute refugees efficiently, while respecting their rights, is to combine two market mechanisms. First, a market for tradable refugee admission quotas that allows refugees to be established wherever it is less costly to do so. Second, a matching system that links refugees to their preferred destinations, and host countries to their preferred types of refugees. The proposal is efficient but has yet to be tested in practice.
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  • Setting policy on asylum: Has the EU got it right?

    Harmonizing asylum policies, a noble goal, does not produce the best outcomes for refugees or host country populations

    Tim Hatton, February 2015
    Policy toward asylum-seekers has been controversial. Since the late 1990s, the EU has been developing a Common European Asylum System, but without clearly identifying the basis for cooperation. Providing a safe haven for refugees can be seen as a public good and this provides the rationale for policy coordination between governments. But where the volume of applications differs widely across countries, policy harmonization is not sufficient. Burden-sharing measures are needed as well, in order to achieve an optimal distribution of refugees across member states. Such policies are economically desirable and are more politically feasible than is sometimes believed.
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  • Who benefits from the minimum wage—natives or migrants?

    There is no evidence that increases in the minimum wage have hurt immigrants

    Madeline Zavodny, December 2014
    According to economic theory, a minimum wage reduces the number of low-wage jobs and increases the number of available workers, allowing greater hiring selectivity. More competition for a smaller number of low-wage jobs will disadvantage immigrants if employers perceive them as less skilled than native-born workers—and vice versa. Studies indicate that a higher minimum wage does not hurt immigrants, but there is no consensus on whether immigrants benefit at the expense of natives. Studies also reach disparate conclusions on whether higher minimum wages attract or repel immigrants.
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