The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration

Migration across national boundaries has increased greatly in the last decade and has become a contentious political issue in many receiving countries. To what extent should countries encourage immigration? What rights should be conferred on immigrants, especially temporary ones? Ruhs emphasizes the uncomfortable tradeoffs built into every answer to those questions. The UN Human Rights Council and the International Labor Organization, along with many civil rights groups and labor unions, take the position that foreign-born workers should not be discriminated against in their new places of employment. Others, including the governments of developing countries and some economists, believe that more immigration, particularly from poor countries to rich ones, would improve the lots of the receiving countries and the immigrants alike. Ruhs points to the substantial tension that exists between those two positions: stronger rights will lead receiving countries to accept fewer immigrants, especially temporary ones. He urges receiving countries to prioritize the rights of immigrants, identifying which rights are inalienable and which ones should be considered more malleable given the need to stimulate more immigration.

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