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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Student mobility, internationalization of higher education and skilled migration

The dynamics of student mobility and the internationalization of higher education have changed profoundly since the 1990s. Twenty years ago, the primary motivations to study abroad were related to academic, political, geo-strategic, cultural and development aid issues and considerations. At the time, countries took a favourable view of the mobility of students and academics as an opening to the world, in the hope of creating international networks of elites. Universities received foreign students and academics but made no special effort to recruit them. Today, even though the original motivations remain valid, cross-border education – that is, all that entails the international mobility of students and teachers, educational programmes or institutions of higher learning (Knight, 2004) – is being increasingly driven by economic considerations. Governments see it as a fulcrum of economic development and as a means of improving the quality of their higher education and their institutions of higher learning, an element of prestige (and sometimes a source of income), giving them a competitive edge. Individuals see it as a further boost to their career both in their home country and on the international job market, or even as an investment towards possible future emigration.

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