World Migration Report 2008

Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global Economy

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The task of formulating workable approaches to the management of international migration remains a formidable challenge for the community, one that will require both time and effort over the coming years. In what terms are we to develop comprehensive migration management strategies that will help us achieve coherence of action? What organizing principles should be adopted? Is there, in conceptual terms, a point of leverage to move the debate forward? Part of the problem lies in the difficulty of coming to a consensus about the fundamental nature of migration and its outcomes. Underlying the current and welcome inclination to acknowledge the potentially beneficial outcomes of migratory phenomena are many questions that are yet to be fully resolved. In the midst of that uncertainty there are suggestions worth exploring that contemporary migration – as opposed to whatever its historical antecedents may have been – is uniquely related to and defined by those processes of economic and social integration collectively known as globalization. The argument is that, whether by design or not, these developments are largely responsible for the creation of an unprecedented context in which human mobility seeks to find expression on a genuinely global scale. The World Migration Report 2008 tackles this issue directly and seeks to identify policy options that might contribute to the development of broad and coherent strategies to better match demand for migrant workers with supply in safe, humane and orderly ways. Part A of the Report explores the nature and magnitude of the need for such strategies through the observation and analysis of a wide range of contemporary migratory patterns linked to economic purposes while Part B discusses the contours of possible policy responses.

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Low and semi-skilled workers abroad

The world appears to be on the threshold of a new era in temporary labour migration programmes, characterized by more sources and destinations of migrant workers at all rungs of the job ladder (Martin, 2003b; Abella, 2006). Current temporary labour migration programmes aim to add workers temporarily to the labour force, but not settlers to the population. This may seem surprising, since programmes such as the Mexico-U.S. Bracero and the German Gastarbeiter (guest worker) programmes ended when destination country governments were persuaded that large numbers of temporary migrant workers adversely affected local workers and could result in migration getting “out of control”.

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