IZA World of Labor

Labor mobility

  • Measuring flows of international migration

    Consistent measures of migration are needed to understand patterns and impacts on labor market outcomes

    James Raymer, April 2017
    International migration alters the socio-economic conditions of the individuals and families migrating as well as the host and sending countries. The data to study and to track these movements, however, are largely inadequate or missing. Understanding the reasons for these data limitations and recently developed methods for overcoming them is crucial for implementing effective policies. Improving the available information on global migration patterns will result in numerous and wide-ranging benefits, including improved population estimations and providing a clearer picture of why certain migrants choose certain destinations.
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  • Climate change, natural disasters, and migration

    The relationship between migration and natural events is not straightforward and presents many complexities

    The relationship between climatic shocks, natural disasters, and migration has received increasing attention in recent years and is quite controversial. One view suggests that climate change and its associated natural disasters increase migration. An alternative view suggests that climate change may only have marginal effects on migration. Knowing whether climate change and natural disasters lead to more migration is crucial to better understand the different channels of transmission between climatic shocks and migration and to formulate evidence-based policy recommendations for the efficient management of the consequences of disasters.
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  • 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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  • Ethnic networks and location choice of immigrants

    Ethnic capital produced by local concentration of immigrants generates greater economic activity

    Sholeh A. Maani, August 2016
    Immigrants can initially face significant difficulties integrating into the economy of the host country, due to information gaps about the local labor market, limited language proficiency, and unfamiliarity with the local culture. Settlement in a region where economic and social networks based on familiar cultural or language factors (“ethnic capital”) exist provides an effective strategy for economic integration. As international migration into culturally diverse countries increases, ethnic networks will be important considerations in managing immigration selection, language proficiency requirements, and regional economic policies.
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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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  • Gravity models: A tool for migration analysis

    Availability of bilateral data on migratory flows has renewed interest in using gravity models to identify migration determinants

    Raul Ramos, February 2016
    Gravity models have long been popular for analyzing economic phenomena related to the movement of goods and services, capital, or even people; however, data limitations regarding migration flows have hindered their use in this context. With access to improved bilateral (country to country) data, researchers can now use gravity models to better assess the impacts of migration policy, for instance, the effects of visa restriction policies on migration flows. The specification, estimation, and interpretation of gravity models are illustrated in different contexts and limitations of current practices are described to enable policymakers to make better informed decisions.
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  • Smart policy toward high-skill emigrants

    Many proposed policies on skilled migration do little to improve skill stocks or development outcomes, but promising options exist

    Michael A. Clemens, November 2015
    Immigration officials in rich countries are being asked to become overseas development officials, charged with preventing skilled workers from leaving poor countries, where their skills are needed. Some advocates urge restrictions or taxes on the emigration of doctors and engineers from developing countries. Others urge incentives to encourage skilled workers to remain or return home or policies to facilitate their interactions with home countries. Regulations often reflect compassionate and political sentiments without clear evidence that the regulations achieve the desired development goals and avoid pernicious side effects.
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  • Cross-border migration and travel: A virtuous relationship

    International migration boosts travel and vice versa, bringing economic benefits but challenging public policy

    Jacques Poot, November 2015
    The ongoing relationships between emigrants and their families, friends, and business contacts in their home countries can increase outbound and inbound cross-border travel, while cross-border tourism and business and study trips can trigger migration. New communication technologies, such as social media and video chat, only partially substitute for face-to-face meetings. In fact, the greater use of such technologies boosts demand for in-person meetings. Short- and long-term cross-border movements are becoming more complex, creating challenges for measuring immigration and for defining target populations for legislation and public policy.
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  • Does corruption promote emigration?

    Corruption is a driving force of emigration, especially for high-skilled workers, but also for other workers

    Friedrich Schneider, October 2015
    Knowing whether corruption leads to higher emigration rates—and among which groups—is important because most labor emigration is from developing to developed countries. If corruption leads highly-skilled and highly-educated workers to leave developing countries, it can result in a shortage of skilled labor and slower economic growth. In turn, this leads to higher unemployment, lowering the returns to human capital and encouraging further emigration. Corruption also shifts public spending from health and education to sectors with less transparency in spending, disadvantaging lower-skilled workers and encouraging them to emigrate.
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  • Language and culture as drivers of migration

    Linguistic and cultural barriers affect international migration flows

    Alicía Adserà, July 2015
    As migration flows to developed countries have increased in recent decades, so have the number of countries from which migrants arrive. Thus, it is increasingly important to consider what role differences in culture and language play in migration decisions. Recent work shows that culture and language may explain migration patterns to developed countries even better than traditional economic variables, such as income per capita and unemployment rates in destination and origin countries. Differences in culture and language may create barriers that prevent the full realization of the potential economic gains from international mobility.
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