Migration Support Programs (Type 2)

Migration for work characterizes most developing economies. In today’s more mobile age, migration is both increasing and diversifying - more south-south migration between neighboring countries, and more diverse rural to rural to urban within a nation, as well as the traditional developing to developed country migration. Table 1.1 provided data on the varying weight emigration and immigration plays in individual developing economies, with the three biggest external corridors being Mexico to the United States, former Soviet countries and Ukraine to Russia, and Bangladesh to India.13 Migrants comprise the vast majority of the labor force of key high-income Arabian Peninsula nations (Qatar 87%, United Arab Emirates 70%, Kuwait 69%)14 creating very different challenges of integration and mobility, particularly for low-skilled migrants from East Asia and the Philippines.

In many of the largest migrating nations, such as the Philippines, programs and institutions have grown up separately from smaller domestic economy-related employment or labor intermediation services, but not always. As Stage 2 evolves, creating, supporting or coordinating with migration programs should mirror the importance of migration as a factor in employment. Services and strategies differ according to whether the objective is facilitating/supporting internal migration, external migration (temporary and curricular), return migration, or migrants working within a country’s borders. Reviewing such migration support services by type: First, supporting internal migration or labor mobility within a nation’s borders is a principal function of national labor intermediation services. In some developing countries, however, mobility is constrained not only by lack of information but also by loss of eligibility to other services, lack of housing alternatives and by cultural norms, should a person move for work. The starting point is to insure workers know what available jobs there are. This means permitting access to labor market information and job registers whether online or in regional offices, so that labor market information services and job registries have a national reach and national access. Where there are large numbers of unfilled vacancies in particular growing regions, services of specialized recruitment, relocation assistance or job fairs where the unemployed live have been used to move from information to placement. In Poland, where its citizens migrate in large numbers within Europe and Russia, citizens still do not have access to job registries and labor market information to look first in other areas of their own country. Lack of information and open access to vacancies is not typically the only barrier to internal migration, but is often one of the easier and first barriers to address. Internal labor mobility is comparatively low by international standards in developing countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.15 Greater internal labor mobility is a driver worldwide of greater productivity, and, a recent World Bank study argues that, for Europe and Central Asia in particular, both employment and productivity gains could be made through greater internal mobility. Authors Arias and Sanchez-Paramo argue that labor market information would need to be combined with support for housing/credit markets, removal of administrative barriers, and reduction of regional disparities in social services, among other policy changes to improve labor mobility.16 In the case of Ukraine, a survey indicates that lack of labor market information was cited by 25% of respondents as a barrier to internal mobility, but the official registration system which requires registration of new residencies (a rare administrative requirement worldwide) topped the barriers cited by nearly 40% of respondents inhibiting internal migration.17

Second, emigration or external migration can be made safer, more circular and more human capital-enhancing through listings of authorized foreign employment or seasonal/fixed term migration programs, either run by or coordinated with a labor intermediation service. In the case of programs run directly by labor intermediation services, the comparative advantage is not permanent migration, but rather facilitating and supporting temporary, seasonal and curricular migration, linking it back to the local economy. Turkey’s public employment service lists employment abroad as part of its national job bank.18 The National Employment Services of Guatemala and Mexico manage seasonal agricultural workers and, more recently, temporary services (tourism) workers in the United States. Services to support temporary migration programs include: procurement of visas, oversight and accountability on their return, and off-season training in their home countries. While exploitation unfortunately still occurs as workers fear that reporting abuse would lead to their not returning the next year, these workers have the advantage of being authorized migrants with access to their national consulates, safe border passage, and regulated working conditions. Migration support programs need not be run by a national employment or labor intermediation service, but the goal is linkage to a national job registry to be able to refer workers with the right profile to these programs. This is particularly important to support rural employment. Colombia runs a temporary agricultural workers’ program with Spain through its National Training Institute (SENA, Servicio Nationalde Aprendizaje) which includes training in Spain and back in Colombia in the off-season when workers return, with the idea of upgrading agricultural skills over time. These programs are all admittedly small, with negotiated numbers of migrants regulated by bilateral agreements. For this reason they are most applicable for seasonal or curricular jobs.

A special case for authorized migration abroad is the use of private placement agencies which bring low-skilled workers - maids, construction workers, services - to the Middle East. Regulation of private recruitment agencies which charge high fees to poor migrants to work under poor, exploitative conditions has proved both inadequate and difficult to enforce as firms quickly move underground to avoid regulation, as found by Philippine migration expert, Dovelyn Rannweig Agunias. These agencies work directly with employers, often bypassing oversight. They recruit individually, not through intermediation services. There is little consen?sus between origin and destination countries on the management of such firms. Agunias proposes a series of reforms, noting the dilemma that “temporary migration to the region [Middle East] at the current scale would be impossible without private agencies.”19

A third type of migration more directly supported by labor intermediation services is return migration - reintegrating national migrants back into an economy. Return migration often should not require a specialized program if the labor intermediation service has evolved enough to manage individual cases and is national in scope. By using case management, an employer/counselor can assess the special skills of the return migrant - foreign languages, technical skills (from construction to computers) - for appropriate placement and coordination with any available social services. The small Pacific island nation of Tonga has been cited as an example of a country which used its return migration support programs for returning migrants from New Zealand in an effective way to contribute to national job growth.20

A fourth (and final!) migration category is permitting migrants to access labor market services in the country where they are working or looking for work. This is admittedly done less frequently and, when done, has typically covered migrants only from countries under special agreements, such as within the European Union or, in Latin America, through bilateral or regional agreements such as Mercosur.21 Doing this can and has played a role in helping integrate migrants, enabling access to human capital improvements and fueling economic growth. Ireland’s public employment service played a particular role in screening and placing Eastern European immigrants (from Poland and Estonia), meeting growing demand fueling Ireland’s boom in the 1990s. Argentina, under the framework of Mercosur, bilateral agreements, and a national initiative to provide documents to migrants working in the country, permits Mercosur members access to its public employment service and training programs, particularly relevant for agricultural migrant workers coming typically from neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.22

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