Is There a Goldilocks Solution? “Just Right” Promotion of Labor Mobility

November 07, 2016

Relaxations of rich country restrictions on the mobility of low-skilled labor is far and away the single most potent policy change to raise incomes of people now living in poor countries. But this just isn’t on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda or the agenda of any development actor.  The reason why is seemingly obvious: rich country voters don’t want it. In this policy essay we take issue with that explanation in two ways. First, a naïve explanation of the global agenda as determined by the “polled opinion of the median voters” (of whatever countries) is an empirically poor model. Second, we take the lessons of recent successful global advocacy and propose their application to a “goldilocks” approach to the promotion of reduction of barriers to movement of low skilled workers. The “just right” approach looks to avoid either “too hard”—expecting countries to make legally binding commitments to a global protocol—or “too soft”—no global mechanisms for reducing restrictions on labor mobility. We propose a “bundled” organization that works with existing bilateral labor agreements and partners as part of an organization capable of analysis and advocacy.

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