E.g., 12/29/2014
E.g., 12/29/2014

Learning by Doing: Experiences of Circular Migration

Policy Briefs
September 2008

Learning by Doing: Experiences of Circular Migration

Circular migration policies, when successful, allow receiving governments to meet their labor market needs, sending governments to benefit from remittance streams and emigrants’ augmented human capital, and workers to take advantage of employment or investment opportunities as they appear both in the origin and destination country. However, as this report points out, many of the existing program conditions intended to “enforce” circularity, and thereby allow host countries to avoid the social and fiscal costs of permanently admitting newcomers, seem to encourage illegal migration.

This report provides a global look at circular migration experiences, depicts various governments’ attempts at creating circular migration, evaluates the economic costs and benefits of circular migration for sending and receiving countries, identifies components of effective bilateral agreements, and reviews outcomes governments might realistically expect from their policies.

An examination of the seasonal migration programs, the nonseasonal circular migration for low-and semi-skilled workers, and high-skilled temporary worker policies of various nations reveal that programs that rely too heavily on compulsion rather than incentives generally are both difficult and expensive to implement. Restrictions intended to enforce circularity—including very short contracts, nonrenewable visas, visas tied to particular employers, and inability to switch to other admissions categories—create incentives for migrants to leave programs and move into irregular status. On the other hand, worker incentives—such as repeat labor market access, focus on skill upgrading, pension portability, family unification arrangements, and an “earned” right to remain permanently—encourage worker compliance with terms of circular migration.