The goal of the Connecting International Labor Markets Working Group is to ensure workers can access more and better opportunities abroad. The Working Group identifies barriers and opportunities to enhanced labor mobility, in order to inform the design of a new organization Labor Mobility Partnerships (LaMP) which is currently incubating at the Center for Global Development. LaMP aims to be the first organization which actively works to increase rights-respecting temporary labor mobility, with a long-term goal of unlocking billions in income gains from people filling needed jobs.
OECD countries are rapidly aging. By 2050, OECD countries will lose more than 82 million people of working-age, while gaining more than 96 million people over 65-year-olds. This means that the number of jobs needing workers within OECD countries will far exceed the supply of new workers. The LaMP team estimates that between 2020 and 2050, the OECD will need to gain 10 million more workers every year just to keep pace with this need.
Meanwhile, the estimates project that there will be two billion new working-age people in developing countries by 2050. Based on current projections, these countries may be able to produce 1.2 billion new jobs, meaning 800 million would need to find employment abroad or create alternative employment for themselves.
These dynamics create pressure for labor to move between countries. Wage differentials between rich and poorer countries add to these pressures: workers who find jobs in richer countries can expect to increase their income by six to 15 times. These potential gains make labor mobility one of the most powerful tools for poverty alleviation currently on the current development agenda.
Despite this fact, the international community provides little support to connecting international labor markets. This leaves many countries with critical unanswered demand for support in an era when labor mobility is increasing and desperately needed. As a result, labor remains trapped in low-productivity areas while employers in high-productivity areas struggle to fill vacancies.
Opportunities to address the problem
Labor mobility creates a ‘triple win:’ for the worker who gains employment and dramatically improves their income, for the receiving country which receives needed workers, and for the sending country which receives remittances and needed employment opportunities. However, this triple win is currently constrained by political will around unlocking labor mobility.
The Working Group is focused on how to address the constraints preventing countries from allowing needed labor mobility, unlocking trillions in income gains. Our starting point is two-fold:
- The current dialogue overlooks temporary labor mobility as a viable option: Low-skill temporary and circular workers currently make up a mere 11 percent of the total migrant population globally. Migration policy tends to focus on irregular and permanent migration, disregarding temporary mobility. This issue is even though there is reason to believe it may politically be more tractable with receiving country voters. This is due in some part to the perceived illegitimacy of temporary mobility, as schemes often face issues with worker exploitation. However, programs such as New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme, Australia’s Pacific Labor Scheme, or the Republic of Korea’s Employment Permit System, demonstrate that temporary mobility programs can be designed in a way which addresses labor market needs while improving the livelihoods and ensuring the rights of workers employed through them. Most such programs currently exist at small-scale relative to need, indicating that, while viable, more work needs to be done to achieve the scale needed to support the demand for labor mobility.
- There is a role for a global partnership to promote temporary labor mobility: When looking at other movements which successfully shifted international norms, we note the role of diverse coalitions in convening partners and setting the agenda. This support does not currently exist around temporary labor mobility, leaving partners in the space to operate in isolation and at small-scale. In order to address the demographic shifts noted above, coordinated action will be needed from governments, the private sector, and the mobility industry to align labor markets across borders.
Questions for the Working Group to Answer
Some initial questions to be answered through the working group process are:
- What are the barriers currently preventing partners from unlocking needed labor mobility?
- What meaningful support could an international partner provide to remove the barriers? How does this inform the design and activities of LaMP?
- What role do different actors (government, sectors, mobility industry, migrants) play? What would a successful coalition look like?
- What lessons can be learned from past successful movements which involved international coordination?
Working Group Structure
CGD uses Working Groups to bring diverse actors from the private, public and policy spheres together to develop and promote novel, sell-able, and scalable solutions to difficult problems.
The Working Group is chaired by Michael Clemens, Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy at CGD, and Lant Pritchett, Visiting Research Scholar, Blavatnik School of Government. It includes representatives from government ministries, international organizations, ‘mobility industry’ actors, private sector, and research institutions. Members are invited to participate in a strictly personal and volunteer capacity, not as representatives of their employers or organizations. The Working Group launched in Dubai in October 2019, and will continue to consult on the design and activities of LaMP over the coming months, leading to a final report recommending a design followed by the launch of LaMP from CGD in April 2020.
 OECD countries included: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, United States.
 Own calculations using United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, DVD Edition.
Lant Pritchett, Visiting Research Scholar, Blavatnik School of Government
Michael Clemens, Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development
Rochelle Ball, former Strategic Policy Research Leader, Pacific Labour Facility
Andras Bodor, Senior Economist, World Bank Social Protection and Jobs GP
Adam Chilton, Professor of Law and Walter Mander Research Scholar, University of Chicago Law School
Anne Healy, former Chief Innovation Officer, Evidence Action (Advisory Taskforce)
Dawit Dame, Innovation Manager, Ethiopian Jobs Creation Commission
Michelle Dimasi, Business Development Director for Middle East and Asia, MAXIMUS Inc.
Carolyn Fallert, Philippines Country Manager, Care with Care
Gonzalo Fanjul, Co-founder and Head of Research, PorCausa
Richard Johnson, Senior Consultant on Employment Services, World Bank (Advisory Taskforce)
Steen Jorgenson, former Director, World Bank Social Protection and Jobs GP
Devesh Kapur, Starr Foundation South Asia Studies Professor and Asia Programs Director, Johns Hopkins SAIS (Advisory Taskforce)
Froilan Malit, Researcher, University of Cambridge, Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement
Ratna Omidvar, Independent Senator for Ontario, Government of Canada
Julia Onslow-Cole, Global Government Strategies and Compliance Partner, Fragomen (Advisory Taskforce)
Ririn Purnamasari, Senior Economist, World Bank Poverty and Equity GP
Md. Mojibar Rahman, Director for Emigration and Protocol and Deputy Secretary at the Bureau of Manpower, Employment & Training, Government of Bangladesh
Emma Seymour, Vice President of Worker Welfare, Expo 2020
Nick Volk, Team Lead, Pacific Labour Facility
Vassiliy Yuzhanin, Senior Labour and Human Mobility Facilitation Specialist, International Organization on Migration
Rebekah Smith, Visiting Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development
Farah Hani, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Global Development