Circular migration: a triple win or a dead end?
According to the paper, there is a need to distinguish between ‘spontaneous circular migration’ which have been occurring for a long time, and‘managed circular migration programmes’. It is these managed programmes that have been recently promoted at the national, regional and global levels as a major migration policy tool to deal with priority issues of international labour migration. These relate to meeting labour market needs in destination countries without permanent settlement, mitigating “brain drain”, promoting development in home countries through a steady flow of remittances and return of skills,and minimizing irregular migration.
The study suggests that recent discussions have exaggerated the benefits of circular migration, arguing that:
- there is little evidence to support that circular migration represents the natural preferences of most migrants. It is difficult to see migrant workers as winners in circular schemes since they have limited choice regarding the jobs, change of employers, timing of return, and family unification, among others
- countries of origin are hardly winners either, given the small quotas oflegal migration opportunities provided, if any, and the largeconcessions they have to make to gain such quotas as under EuropeanUnion mobility partnerships
- the current model seems to make the destination countries winners inproviding them ‘labour without people’, or circular migrants withill-defined rights, making it easier for employers to exploit workers,and engage in flexible hiring and firing, in line with economic andbusiness conditions, and short term savings in integration costs
- the idea that destination country citizens do not want permanentsettlers needs to be challenged. The OECD has pointed out that temporarylabour migration programmes cannot be the cornerstone of any crediblemigration policy.