MIGRATION, THE IDEA OF COMPENSATION,
AND THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER
W. R. BBhning
International Labour Office, Geneva
WORLD EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMME RESEARCH
MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT PROJECT
WEP 2-26/WP 45
WORLD EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMME RESEARCH
MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT PROJECT
MIGRATION, THE IDEA OF COMPENSATION
AND THE INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER
W. R. Bbhning
Note: WEP Working Papers are preliminary documents circulated
informally in a limited number of copies solely to
stimulate discussion and critical comment. They are
restricted and should not be cited without permission.
Copyright ( International Labour Organisation, 1979
The designation of countries employed,
which is in conformity with United Nations
practice, and the presentation of the
material in this publication do not imply
the expression of any opinion whatsoever
on the part of the International Labour Office
concerning the legal status of any country or
territory or of its authorities, or concerning
the deliminations of its frontiers.
The responsibility for opinions expressed
in signed studies rests solely with their
authors, and publication does not constitute
an endorsement by the International Labour
Office of the opinions expressed therein.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. PREFACE, by W.R. Bbhning .............................
B. SOME FACTS AND FIGURES ON INTERNATIONAL
ECONOMIC MIGRATION, by W.R. Bbhning .................
I The neglected importance of international
migration ............. .................... .......
II Brief overview of major regions of migration
around 1975 ......................................
C. THE IDEA OF COMPENSATION IN INTERNATIONAL
MIGRATION, by W.R. Bohning ..........................
I INTRODUCTION ........................ .. .......
II THE EARLY EXPLORATION: TAXING THE BRAIN DRAIN ...
(a) Taxing Migrants .............. ....... .......
(1) Compensation for losses to
developing countries ...................
(2) Modern migration legitimises
global tax systems ......... .... .......
(3) Taxing rents ..................... .....
(b) Sharing Developed Countries' Tax Revenues ...
(c) Special Tax Allowances ....................
(1) Tax deductions ...... ..............
(2) Tax credits ............................
(d) Other Migrant-Related Tax Proposals ... ....
III THE BIG PUSH: COMPENSATION ON THE INTERNATIONAL
AGENDA ........... ...............................
(a) Address by Jordan to 1977 International
Labour Conference ...........................
(b) Resolution 192 of 32nd Session of UN
General Assembly ............................
(c) A Yugoslav Initiative ......................
(d) Stirrings at UNCTAD .........................
(1) Governmental Experts on Reverse
Transfer of Technology .................
(2) Commission on Transfer of Technology ...
- ii -
(e) A Broader Perspective ......................... 22
(f) The 1979 Conference of UNCTAD, ILO
and UNCSTD .................................... 26
(1) UNCTAD V ................................. 26
(2) The Follow-up to the World Employment
Conference ............................... 26
(3) The UN Conference on Science and
Technology for Development ............... 27
IV WHAT FUTURE? ..... ........ ...................... .. 28
D. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL
ECONOMIC ORDER, by W.R. Bdhning ........................ 29
I INTRODUCTION ....................................... 30
II FROM MERCANTILISM TO THE PRESENT ................... 31
III THE NEO-LIBERAL ORDER UNDER ATTACK ................. 38
IV THE NEW INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER
AND INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION ....................... 42
V WHAT FUTURE FOR INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION? ........... 44
VI CONCLUSIONS .......................T.... ............. 50
E. MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT PROJECT: WORKING PAPERS ...... 51
- iii -
This is the forty-fifth paper appearing in the World
Employment Programme working paper series of the research project
on Migration for Employment. The aim of the project is to
investigate the implications of international migration movements
from low-income to high-income countries for economic and social
This issue contains three separate papers. The first,
entitled Some facts and figures on international economic migra-
tion, will shortly appear in French in "Population"(Paris). The
English original is made available here to people who are unlikely
to consult "Population". This paper mainly provides benchmark
data on stocks of economically active foreigners in the major
regions and countries of immigration in the middle of the 1970s.
The second, The idea of compensation in international
migration, was prepared for the Second Regional Population
Conference of ECWA, 1-6 December 1979, Damascus, Syrian Arab
Republic. It documents the recent history of this novel notion
in international relations.
The third paper, International migration and the international
economic order, is the draft of a contribution to the spring 1980
special issue on international migration of the "Journal of
International Affairs" (New York). My contribution looks at the
place assigned to economic migration in international economic
relations in the past; the uncertainties surrounding it at present;
and the trends that are shaping the future.
B. SOME FACTS AND FIGURES
W. R. BBhning
(International Labour Office)
- 2 -
T. THE N,,GLECTl)D IMPORTANCE OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION
International migration is a sorely neglected but important subject.
Related fields of scientific inquiry, such as internal migration or
natural population movements, and the other aspects of the international
division of labour, i.e. trade and monetary flows, have attracted in-
comparably more attention over a long period of time.
Yet, today's foreign or migrant workers number at least 20 million,
their dependants a multiple. More than half of the workers originate from
developing countries and are employed in developed market economy coun-
tries or in developing countries whose per capital income is higher than
the average per capital income of developed market economy countries. The
annual net flow of remittances amounts to more than 10,000 million US
dollars; about four-fifths are destined to developing countries. In the
most extreme country situations, in Lesotho or in the United Arab Emirates,
migrants abroad or foreigners within constitute five to six times the
number of nationals engaged in domestic wage-paid employment. Where these
ratios are reduced to ordinary proportions, as in the case of populous
Turkey for example, the value of remittances may nevertheless rival not
merely the value of the single most important export commodity, but even
of total exports.
Information collected by the United Nations on mid-1974 governmental
policies dealing with international migration "suggests clearly that
governments are extremely concerned with this component of population
growth, not only in terms of purely administrative control of movements
into and out of their countries, but in relation to overall size, growth
and composition of their population and labour force. Fifty two per cent
of the countries 'permit' or 'encourage' permanent emigration ... 22 per
cent 'encourage' permanent immigration and 24 per cent 'encourage' tem-
1 The terms are meant to be interchangeable. My use of the word
"migrant" is not restricted to (attributed individual intentions of or
declared public policies of) temporary in-migration or out-migration.
Similarly, the words "emigrant" or "immigrant" do not cover onlyassumed
permanent movements. Reality is too complex to be clearly reflected by
the addition or deletion of a prefix. The notion of "foreign" in the
sense of citizenship is precise unless stateless persons or dual natio-
nalities are involved.
2 United Nations Secretariat, "Population Policies and Programmes",
in UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, The Population Debate:
Dimensions and Perspectives, Papers of the World Population Conference,
Bucharest, 1974, Vol. II (New York, ST/ESA/SER.A/57, 1975), PP. 586-7.
Concern must be translated into thorough research and political
action. For international migration is not likely to fade away. On
the contrary, geographical mobility tends to intensify as societies
pass through the stages of industrialisation; the per capital income
gap between poor and rich countries tends generally to increase in
the foreseeable future, while the rising expectations of a good life
seize larger and larger numbers of people a combination of factors
that points to a growing pressure for emigration.
II. BRIEF OVERVIEW OF MAJOR REGIONS OF MIGRATION AROUND 1975
The traditional settlement countries in Northern America and
Oceania are to this day major migrant-receiving countries. The United
States are foremost among them. The gross inflow of people under the
1965 Immigration Act amounts to almost 400,000 per annum; between two-
thirds and three-quarters are economically active after entry (although
much lower percentages in recent years no more than eight per cent -
are admitted under the labour certification procedure which makes it
possible for professional and highly skilled persons without refugee
status or US relatives to immigrate). The removal of ethnic quotas
through the 1965 Immigration Act has led to the in-flow of large numbers
of professional and highly skilled migrants from developing countries
and given rise to the "brain drain" discussion. A great many immigrants
do not take up US citizenship, as is evidenced by the more than four
million foreigners who are registered as permanent residents. Perhaps
half of these are economically active and from developing countries.
Foreigners are also admitted temporarily as so-called non-immigrants.
In 1975, for example, this involved 15,600 workers of distinguished merit
and ability, as well as 37,500 low-skill workers for farms, hospitals
etc. A considerable proportion of non-immigrants come from developing
countries. However, legal in-flows are completely overshadowed by
illegal entries, which are almost exclusively from developing countries
and chiefly across the Mexican-US border. It may be estimated that in
excess of three million economically active migrants are illegally and
unregistered in the USA.
Canada admits less than 200,000 immigrants each year and less than
100,000 non-immigrants for temporary employment for a period up to 12
months. About half of both immigrants and non-immigrants are from
developing countries. Among the former group are many professional and
highly qualified people, while the latter comprises mainly unskilled
farm and restaurant workers. Illegal in-flows from developing countries
appear to be of little importance.
Immigration in Australia and New Zealand was in the past motivated
as much by demographic as by economic reasons and remained overwhelmingly
Ruropean in origin. Some 60 per cent of Australia's population growth
between World War TI and 1975 can be attributed to immigration. New
Zealand supplemented permanent immigration by a temporary employment
scheme which initially involved tens of thousands of people from several
small Pacific islands but which was drastically curtailed in the recent
The Western European region (see Table 1) comes a close second to
Northern America in terms of quantitative importance. The pattern of
migration is different however. There is freedom of movement for labour
in the European Communities and the Nordic labour market area but strict
control, little illegal movement and much temporariness as regards flows
from outside countries. The stock of nearly 6.5 million economically
active foreigners is accompanied by a similar number of dependants.
The next most important region in terms of migrant employment is
Southern America, where one finds about three million active foreigners
from countries of the region (see Table 2) plus 400,000 working border
commuters. The bulk of this movement is uncontrolled and unregistered.
Its trend seems to be upward rather than downward.
Just short of two million migrants were employed in the Arab region
in 1975 (see Table 5), a figure which has doubtlessly increased since.1
The nationality composition is changing as the supply of Arab workers is
beginning to dry up and the countries of employment (and even emigration
countries such as Egypt and Jordan!) cast their recruitment net eastwards
to India, Pakistan and beyond. The historical legacy of underdevelop.
ment and the small population base result in large proportions of mi-
grants in all walks of life at every level of skill. Little is known
about their dependants except that they are frequently unwelcome.
Western Africa is another major region of migration (see Table 4)
with perhaps 1.5 million active foreigners. A great deal of the move-
ment is from the stagnant rural hinterland to booming coastal areas
1 In the IMF Survey of 4 September 1978 it was estimated that a
further 1.1 million foreigners were employed in Iran in 1977. Though
the fact of migrant employment in Iran is not in dispute, this figure
would seem to have erred on the high side.
and plantations. Continuing migration, at least to the Ivory Coast,
seems to be the most likely scenario of the 1980s.
The last region to be mentioned here is Southern Africa. As the
situation in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is in a state of flux, it may
be left aside. South Africa employs nearly half a million blacks
from countries in the vicinity on a strictly temporary basis under
conditions of apartheid. The gold-mining industry still accounts for
60 per cent of the total. In 1977 it made a working profit per
African employee (both local and foreign) of 3,670 Rand. Average
annual earnings of Africans employed in the gold mines amounted to a
mere 1,140 Rand. Nothing could portray more starkly the injustices of
apartheid. The cost of a phased alternative employment programme for
foreign African migrant workers in their home countries has been
estimated at approximately twice the 1977 level of gold profits,
Too little of the investible surplus generated with the help of migrant
workers finds its way into their countries of origin.
Table 1: Western European region: economically active migrants, 1975 (in thousands)
Column total 33
Finland France Greece Italy Morocco Portugal
- 42.0 10.0
- n.a. 199.2 152.5
3.0 47.4 219.9 322.9
Spain Tun- Turkey
(0.2) (26.6) (138.6)
30.0 2.0 16.0 3.0
360.7 204.0 73.0 31.2
17.1 72.5 136.0 -
- 2.0 10.0 31.0 5.0 18.0 1.0
0.2 103.0 8.0 2.5 0.5 1.0 2.0 0.2
- (51.5) (168.6) (75.5)
0.6 50.0 56.5 2.0 10.0 37.0 0.2
Column total as
% of act. pop. 11
GNP per capital
160.0(140.9) (290.4) (857.1) 230.9
5 (1) (8) (4)
5,420 5,950 2,340 2,810 41
Row Row GNP
total total per
as % of capital
28.5 195.8 6 '4,870
80.5 316.8 8 6,270
42.2 190.6 1,584.3
4.0 23.0 59.6
L3.4) (36.4) 408.25
3.0 4.0 700.07
69.0 187.0 4 5,750
455.2 (502.7) 76.4 (728.3) (699.5) 1,885.1 6,309.6 n.a.
6 14 (4) 4 (4) (8)
'0 1,570 2,750 750 900 1,554
n.a. n.a. n.a.
0 n.a. n.a. n.a.
n.a. = not applicable.
= no migrants of this nationality recorded or estimated, or magnitude less than 50.
( ) = where figures for individual nationalities appear in brackets, this signifies minimum numbers. Several countries
grant permanent residence or work permits to foreigners after a number of years of employment, in which case the
nationality breakdown for this group is not usually available. Similarly, unemployment figures by nationality are
rare and lumped together with the "Other" figures.
1 = wage and salary earners only.
2 = best available figures, giving 1976 estimate. Source: Prof. W.A. Dumon, "Systhme d'Ob ervation Permanente des
Migrations, Belgique 1977" (Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit [mimeographed], n.d. [1977T
3 = census.
4 = the approximately 40,000 Dutch passport holders from the Antilles and Surinam are not included in these figures
5 = includes 328,500 established foreigners whose nationality could not be determined. Italian, French, German, Spanish
and Yugoslav nationals may be expected to figure most prominently among them, possibly in proportions similar to
those of the bracketed figures (annual permit holders plus seasonal plus frontier workers).
6 = these figures are based on estimates made by the EEC's European Office for Co-ordination and the OECD's Directorate
for Social Affairs, Manpower and Education. People from Commonwealth countries holding UK passport, the bulk of whom
have a right of permanent residence in the UK, are not included here. The 1971 census showed that 3 per cent of the
resident active population were born in the Commonwealth.
7 = this includes nearly half a million persons born in Ireland, just under half of whom are of Irish nationality.
Sources National sources, unless otherwise indicated; World Bank Atlas 1977; and own estimates
Table 2: Southern American region: economically
Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chile
Columbia Ecuador Paraguay Peru Uruguay Venezuela Other
45 n.a. -
5 5 n.a.
- 35 -
8 40 -
4 20 50 n.a.
18 30 -
60 5 10 5
25 20 -
20 10 20 20 605
as % of act. pop. 1
GNP per capital
172 290 667
1 9 11
360 1,030 990 580
- n.a. -
20 n.a. -
20 20 -
L08 670 104 85
6 85 5 8
580 760 1,300
- 1,500 16 1,550
3 45 5
22 140 0
5 2 155 4 990
33 9 120 2 580
6 85 4 590
2 50 6 580
20 120 3 760
n.a. 402 755
58 109 5,000
1 n.a. n.a. n.a.
2,280 n.a. n.a. n.a.
- not applicable.
= no migrants of this nationality recorded or
- excluding about 400,000 economically active
= of which 30,000 from Trinidad and Tobago.
estimated, or magnitude less than 500.
border commuters and people of European origin.
Source: BIT, La condition des travailleurs migrants en Am4rique du sud (Genbve, BIT, 1974; ron0ot4. Informations
sur les conditions gendrales du travail, No. 31). These 1974 ILO estimates have been taken over unchanged
for 1975 except for the number of Columbians in Venezuela, which has been increased by 5,000. World Bank
_ _f. r
active migrants. 19751 (in thousands)
T.v active migrants. 1975 (in thousands)
Saudi Arabia 17
Column total 47
as % of actpop.
GNP per capital
1.2 8.9 0.1
.2.5 61.5 0.5
2.5 154.4 20.6
0.6 0.1 1.4 6.7 1.2
- 0.4 0.1 1.1 7.51
8.7 0.5 0.9
16.5 2.8 52.12
Other Row Row
as % of
14.5 4.5 14.0 100.0 4.5 1.0 1.5 4.5 4.5 28.0 251.5 85
189..7 49.7 38.4
(0) 1 22 7 28 1 16
1,070 2,300 160
70.6 6.5 45.9 70.4
290.1 219.7 1,819.9
1 1 4 27 n.a. n.a. n.a.
110 270 720 200 n.a. n.a. n.a.
no migrants of this nationality recorded or estimated, or
of which 2,000 Iranians.
of which 27,500 Iranians.
Of which 38,600 Tunisians.
magnitude less than 50.
Source: J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, International Migration and Development in the Arab Region (Geneva, ILO, 1979);
World Bank Atlas 1977
v active mi~rants. 1975 tin tho~)
Table 3: Arab region
Western frican re m v- a IL -- IL--- 9- -- e -- -
as % of act.
Senegal Sierra Togo Upper
(24) n.a. (2) (200) (11)
(2) (8) n.a. -
590 540 410
- (26) -
as % of
- (15) 33 17
(7) (418) (36)2 699 22
- (4) (18) 35 7
(55)3 44 4
- 1,2804 n.a.
250 110 n.a.
= not applicable.
= no migrants of this nationality recorded or estimated, or magnitude less than 500
= Togolese have in the main moved to Ghana, where the 1970 census ennumerated 245,000'migrants of this nationality.
= Probably an underestimate. It would appear that at least this number originated from Guinea alone.
= Mostly from Guinea.
= Includes about 224,000 economically active foreigners in Ghana (chiefly from Togo and Upper Volta), 157,000
in Senegal (perhaps half stemming from Guinea and Guinea-Bissau) and 50,000 in Togo (mainly from Ghana).
Source The row totals are taken from a World Bank supported research paper by K.C. Zachariah and J. Conde (1978).
I have estimated the share of these totals in the whole of the in-migrant population, for the four countries
shown, as follows: Gambia 62%, Ivory Coast 49%, Liberia 64% and Sierra Leone 55%. The arithmetic mean of
these figures, 57.5%, was assumed to be the labour force participation rate for each of the eight nationalities
from out-migration countries shown in every in-migration country. The resulting figures can therefore be
regarded as very rough approximations only and have accordingly been bracketed. World Bank Atlas 1977.
nnrr~~min~~~~r ~~+(o~ miarmn+a (~L; VPI~P~ 4nA n~dA7(j~
1975 tin thousands)
m-i1 A- r -L -- A i(- n *A-
Table 5: Southern African region: economically active migrants, 1975 (in thousands)
Lesotho Malawi Mozambique
Row Row total
total as % of
Column total as
% of act. pop.
GNP per capital
n.a. = not applicable.
= no migrants of this nationality recorded or estimated, or magnitude less than 500.
1 = excluding white immigrants.
2 = this is a mid-year estimate which includes about 18,000 miners who were still employed in South
African mines after the stoppage of further recruitment in 1974. In the five years prior to
1974, an average of 100,000 Malawians were employed in the mines, almost all of them in gold-
3 = includes other African nationalities not shown here.
Source: Own estimates; World Bank Atlas 1977.
C. THE IDEA OF COMPENSATION
IN INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION
W. R. Bbhning
(International Labour Office)
- 12 -
This paper retraces the recent history of the idea of compensation in
international migration. It has been said that, already at the turn of the
century, a discussion arose in Italy on the costs of bringing up emigrants
and that these costs should be recuperated from the immigration countries;
but Italy's main immigration partner, the United States, received the idea
coolly. As it has not yet been possible to throw more light on this particular
event, the following expose starts at the beginning of the 1970s.
As compensation is a comparatively new and controversial subject with
fluid boundaries, readers will bear with me if I do not offer a definition
but merely retell the history of its evolution in so far as it is known to me.
I am convinced that there have been several political initiatives that have
not been publicised but which would be worthwhile analysing as regards the
approach chosen and the tactics used.
II. THE EARLY EXPLORATION: TAXING THE BRAIN DRAIN
Towards the end of the 1960s a number of development economists and
politicians became concerned at the apparent inability of most Third World
countries to catch up with the First World. Simultaneously, the large-scale
movement of professional, technical and kindred workers from the Third to the
First World became an international issue. The first to articulate certain
links between the two subjects was an Indian involved in the so-called brain
drain, Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics at MIT in the U.S. He proposed
to levy a surtax on the income accruing to brain drain categories in developed
countries with a view to paying the receipts over to developing countries.2
This proposal was subsequently explored by an international private group of
1 K.H. Hbpfner and M. Huber: Regulating international migration in
the interest of the developing countries: With special reference to
Mediterranean countries (Geneva, ILO, February 1978; mimeographed World
Employment Programme research working paper, restricted), p. 35.
2 J. Bhagwati: "The United States in the Nixon era: The end of
innocence", Daedalus, 1972.
distinguished economists and lawyers.1 The secretariats of international
intergovernmental organizations involved in the moves towards the New
International Economic Order swiftly approached Professor Bhagwati for
There are now several modifications, permutations and justifications of
the original proposal, which rested largely on moral grounds. The various
schemes some of which were excessively complicated in their economic/
econometric derivation have recently been systematised in simple language
by their major proponent, as follows.3
(a) Taxing Migrants
If one assumes that highly-skilled nationals of developing countries who
have migrated to developed countries thereby improve their incomes, one can
justify taxing them for the benefit of the Third World in several ways.
(1) Compensation for losses to developing countries
"If the case for taxing highly-skilled migrants is to be based on losses
inflicted by their migration on 'those left behind' (TLBs), then the case is
one for compensation, this to be paid by the migrants themselves for the
privilege of being allowed to move internationally in a world which, unlike
in the 19th century, has unfortunately learnt to accept immigration restrictions
as consistent with human rights. But it is also then a case which needs
argumentation on a case-by-case approach, for the brain drain phenomenon
is not always a brain drain problem... "
Whose deliberations were published and constitute a valuable source of
information. See J. Bhagwati and M. Partington (eds.): Taxing the brain
drain, I: a proposal, and J. Bhagwati (ed.): The brain drain and taxation, II:
Theory and empirical analysis (both published in Amsterdam, New York and
Oxford by the North-Holland Publishing Co., 1976).
J. Bhagwati: "The brain drain", in ILO: Tripartite World Conference
on Employment, Income Distribution and Social Progress and the International
Division of Labour, Background Papers, Vol. II: International Strategies for
Employment (Geneva, 1976), pp. 139-160; and J. Bhagwati: "The reverse transfer
of technology (brain drain): International resource flow accounting, compens-
ation, taxation and related policy proposals", in UNCTAD: Consideration
of policy issues at the international level (Geneva, TD/B/C.6/AC. 4/2,
13 December 1977).
5 The following is taken from J.N. Bhagwati: "The brain drain,
compensation and taxation", in International Union for the Scientific Study
of Population (ed.): Conference on "Economic and Demographic Change: Issues
for the 1980s", Helsinki 1978, Solicited Papers (Libge, Imprimerie Derouaux,
1978) ; quoted with permission of author and IUSSP.
(2) Modern migration legitimises global tax systems
because contemporary international labour migration is frequently
temporary and does not lead to a change in nationality, "it therefore makes
sense to extend the net of taxation to such migrants who, by and large,
escape their domestic taxes while maintaining their rights as citizens."
(5) Taxing rents
"An economic case for taxing migrants' incomes, in excess of their tax
assessments in developed countries of immigration, is founded on the oldest
argument in economic science for taxation: the taxation of rents. The
stiff immigration restrictions and the substantial differentials in economic
returns to skills in developed countries and less developed countries imply
that the less developed country professionals who manage to get into developed
countries are earning a very substantial rent."
"Of the three rationales produced above for taxing highly-skilled less
developed country migrants' incomes (over and above their taxes in developed
countries of immigration), only the first is based on the assumption of a loss
to TLBs in less developed countries of origin. Moreover, the first two
arguments imply that the revenues so raised must be transferred to the less
developed countries of origin/nationality whereas, in principle, the last
argument (based on rents) can be used to de-link the less developed countries
of origin from (their) migrants and the tax revenues on rents implied by
migration in an imperfect world might well be recommended for social use as,
say, development aid to less developed countries en bloc.
(b) Sharing -Developed Countries' Tax Revenues
"On the other hand, the taxes related to the brain drain phenomenon
may be levied on the developed countries, to be paid out of their general
tax revenues. The rationale for such brain-drain-related taxation on developed
countries can be provided in two alternative ways: either that the developed
countries ought to compensate the less developed countries for the losses that
the brain drain into developed countries imposes on the less developed countries,
or that the developed countries gain from the brain drain and therefore,
regardless of whether there is any loss to the less developed countries, they
ought to share these gains (based on the inflow of less developed country
nationals) with the less developed countries who need developmental resources."
(c) Special Tax Allowances
Two other tax and quasi-tax proposals were generated by the Bhagwati
circleI and have recently gained international prominence.*
(1) Tax deductions
Individual migrant taxpayers in developed countries could be allowed to
deduct from their taxable income the amounts they might wish to contribute
to charities in less developed countries. The eligibility of tax-exempting
contributions need not be confined to the nationals of developing countries.
(2) Tax credits
"Following the recent U.S. practice of taxpayers being allowed to earmark
part of their taxes to finance Presidential elections, one might suggest
that less developed country immigrants in developed countries be allowed,
in the same way, to earmark (up to, say, 10 per cent of their) taxes for
routing to a designated UN agency for developmental spending".
(d) Other Migrant-Related Tax Proposals
While Professor Bhagwati was heaping academic credentials on the idea of
taxing skilled migrants, the subject had a slow start in political circles.
There were some early flutterings though. At a 1974 ILO regional conference
a representative of the Italian Government suggested that "part of the benefit
received by immigration countries from migrant workers, such as taxes, should
be paid into a special fund to be used for the purpose of transferring work"
1 0. Oldman and R. Pomp: "The brain drain: A tax analysis of the
Bhagwati proposal", in J. Bhagwati and M. Partington (eds.): Taxing the
brain drain, op. cit.
R. Pomp and 0. Oldman: "Legal and administrative aspects of
compensation, taxation and related policy measures", in UNCTAD: Consideration
of policy issues at the international level (Geneva, TD/B/C.6/AC.4/7,
28 December 1977.
to the emigration countries. On another occasion, a representative of
the Finnish Ministry of Labour considered that "part of the direct taxes
paid in the host country by a migrant worker are (to be) transferred to the
country of origin.,, Since income is more or less related to education,
income tax will take into account varying sizes of human capital investments.
Obviously, the proportion of taxes remitted should be higher in countries
where direct taxes are comparatively low".2P3
III. THE BIG PUSH: COMPENSATION ON THE INTERNATIONAL AGENDA
The issues of taxing brains or compensating migrants' countries of
origin were not on the agenda of the 1976 ILO World Employment Conference,
but international manpower movements and employment were. During the
negotiations of the Programme of Action, several delegates from developing
countries wished to refer explicitly to measures of financial compensation
by means of an international fund. However, the leading developed countries
were strictly against it. The Programme of Action, therefore, merely states,
in paragraph 43 (i), that multilateral and bilateral migration agreements
should "provide ways of limiting losses in countries of origin, particularly
developing countries, which may result from the departure of skilled personnel
whose education and training they have provided."
,TO0: Provisional record, No. 10, Second European Regional
Conference, Geneva, January 1974, Report of the Committee on Employment,
S A. Majava: Migration problems in the long-term perspective,
paper presented at the Seminar on Long-Term Effects of Migration, Stockholm,
27-29 May 1974, p. 7
It might also be mentioned that, in giving further publicity
to these two proposals, I suggested a differential surtax on migrants'
gross wages to be held in trust in case of return. "Skilled migrants might,
for the sake of argument, be levied at a rate of 2 per cent, unskilled ones
at 0.5 per cent. This would reflect the different education costs and
constitute a disincentive for those whose out-migration is least desirable.
Should the migrant return within, say, five years, he would receive the
accumulated amount to use as he wished... If he did not return ... the
funds would revert to the State as a proper compensation for its original
expenditure on education and training." W.R. BShning: "Some thoughts
on emigration from the Mediterranean basin", in International Labour Review,
Vol. III, No. 5 (f1arch 1975), p. 275.
- 17 -
In June of the following year, Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, gave the traditional address to the International
Labour Conference. In order to do justice to the various dimensions touched
upon in his speech, it will be quoted extensively.
(a) Address by Jordan to 1977 International Labour Conference
"Under the mounting pressure of rising costs of living, (Jordanian)
workers were easily lured by lucrative salaries abroad. Unable to resist
the temptation, skilled and semi-skilled workers continued to leave the
country. This labour drain reversed the traditional picture, and we found
ourselves in Jordan in dire need of labour, compared with our previous surplus.
This shortage of necessary skills had its impact in turn on our ability to
implement our development plans....
"Since the primary resource of my country is the human element...
we feel that there is a pressing need for a set of formulae to be elaborated
and adopted at a universal level in order to ensure that the terms of trade
between capital and labour do not degenerate further in favour of capital.
Unless this imbalance in terms of returns is discouraged, the gap between
the rich and poor countries is bound to widen further and may, in the
foreseeable future, reach intolerable limits.
"It is hardly necessary for me to emphasise here the obvious fact that
labour is at least as important a factor of production as capital. It is
becoming increasingly clear to planners around the world that ian is the
primary development factor and capital occupies a secondary position. The
issue is fortified if one looks at the cost incurred in preparing capable
human beings and that of accruing capital. In many developing countries,
qualified labour is getting to be in chronically short supply. Thus, economic
conditions should be, but are not, tipping the exchange rate between labour and
capital in favour of labour. The world at large still discriminates between
labour and capital exports. The time has come to give labour exports the
attention and consideration traditionally accorded to capital transfers. In
order to do this, there is a need for an international agreement on the
movement of labour whereby proper remuneration and treatment are ensured....
What I have just said naturally applies equally to the outflow of highly-
skilled manpower. The familiar phenomenon of the brain drain must be
harnessed, regulated and controlled if we are to keep developing countries
from becoming anaemic economically, socially and intellectually.
"In this overall context, I should also like to propose the establishment
of an International Labour Compensatory Facility (ILCF). It could be
elaborated along the lines of the Trust Fund for Compensatory Facilities
of the International Monetary Fund. The proposed facility would draw its
resources principally from labour-importing countries, but in a spirit of
solidarity and goodwill, other ILO members may contribute to it. The
accumulated resources will be diverted to developing labour-exporting countries
in proportions relative to the estimated cost incurred due to the loss of
"I would suggest that part of the funds from the proposed International
Labour Compensatory Facility be used as soft loans to participating developing
countries for the purpose of promoting and financing social projects."1
Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan was the first political spokesman of the
Third World to raise the issue of compensation squarely. He did not mention
taxes on migrants and although he referred to the brain drain, his thinking
encompassed ordinary skilled and semi-skilled migrants. He indicated two
distinct rationales: (i) the historic cost of education, and (ii) the cost
incurred due to the loss of indigenous labour which resulted in delays in the
implementation of development projects. By speaking of "discrimination"
between capital and labour exports and calling for equal "attention and
consideration", he seemed to point the finger at the fact that the flows of
labour are an unrequited international resource transfer by comparison with
(b) Resolution 192 of 32nd Session of UN General Assembly
In December 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the
"Reverse transfer of technology" (which is UNCTAD's designation for the drain
of brains from Third to First World countries). Its eighth preambular
paragraph gave a kind of endorsement to the idea of compensation by "taking
note of the constructive proposal made by His Royal Highness Crown Prince
Hassan bin Talal of Jordan ... concerning the establishment of an
1 ILO: Record of Proceedings, International Labour Conference,
63rd Session, Geneva, 1977, PP. 281-3.
- 19 -
International Labour Compensatory Facility". Moreover, one operative para.
graph requested the Secretary General of the UN, in co-operation with UNCTAD
and ILO, "to undertake an in-depth study of the 'brain drain' problem, taking
into account specific proposals made on this subject, including the proposal
referred to in the eighth preambular paragraph above".1
(c) A Yugoslav Initiative
In February 1978 the Yugoslav Government addressed an aide-memoire to the
Government of the Federal Republic of Germany concerning measures for returning
migrants and economic assistance for employment creation projects in Yugoslavia.
It argues, inter alia,as follows.
In the autumn of 1975 the Federal Republic of Germany brought to a halt
the close co-operation that had developed on the recruitment of Yugoslav workers
for temporary employment in Germany. One has to accept the recruitment stop;
but it gave rise to new problems and Yugoslavia therefore expects that future
relations will also be co-operative and be enriched by measures enabling a
more rapid increase in employment opportunities in Yugoslavia. The Federal
Republic of Germany had greatly benefitted from the engagement of Yugoslav
workers, in that these workers had significantly contributed to economic and
social progress and the increase in material prosperity of the Federal Republic.
International labour migration generally favours the recruitment countries.
Yugoslavia, too, has derived certain advantages from it. However, a very high
price has been paid. The investment of Yugoslav society and of Yugoslav parents
in educating and training a citizen until he has reached working age, which costs
on average US $11,000, was a burden for Yugoslavia. A great deal of this
The report of the Secretary-General prepared in response to this General
Assembly Resolution (The "brain drain" problem: Outflow of trained personnel
from developing to developed countries [E/1978/92, 9 June 1978J) makes but a few
brief references to compensation, especially in the summary of the ILO submission.
There was apparently some dissatisfaction that the lengthy in-depth analysis
submitted by UNCTAD was not published separately for in December 1978 UNCTAD's
Committee on Transfer of Technology (see also [d] below), and the UN General
Assembly each passed a Resolution inviting and requesting, respectively, the
Secretary-General "to make available" this study. This was reiterated in two
Resolutions passed by UNCTAD V and the 65th International Labour Conference
in 1978 (see also [f] below).
investment has, without compensation, benefitted the foreign countries in which
Yugoslavs were employed. The family members who stayed behind had, of course,
access to the common resources, services and utilities of society, the cost of
which was borne by the Yugoslav workers employed within the country. Moreover,
among those going abroad there were many highly trained workers who were employed
and who were needed. They had to be replaced by new and less experienced
workers. This had negative consequences for the Yugoslav economy and
for its position on the international market. For these reasons, any future
international co-operation should seek to share the advantages and disadvantages
of international labour movements in a more equitable manner.
Among the concrete proposals put forward by the Yugoslav Government,
the first centres around a fund to be established with the aid of a grant from
the Federal Republic of Germany. (Particular attention is drawn to German
public revenues which the Yugoslav migrant workers had augmented by their taxes).
Such a grant could be earmarked for joint employment-creating projects. The
amortisation could be directed to a special fund which could thus be renewed and
from which further credits could be granted to new projects, and so on.
It is not clear from the aide-memoire whether the Yugoslav Government
was aiming at a one-time large-scale grant or several small-scale payments up
to the time when there would be no more Yugoslav workers in the Federal Republic.
The mention of the average historic cost of education suggests a definite
target sum. The arrangement foreseen falls into the category of revenue
sharing (see above section II [b]).1
Preliminary discussions between German and Yugoslav authorities that
had preceded the aide-memoire, and to which reference is made in it, had left
a German interministerial project group on the promotion of migrants' return
with the certitude that Yugoslavia wanted "solutions and not models". This
group, in a position paper that was not expected to be kept secret, did not and
could not make a clear recommendation on the question of granting financial
aid. (See C. Bock and F. Tiedt: Survey of Yugoslav households in the Federal
Liepublic of Germany [Geneva, ILO, June 1979; mimeographed World Employment
Programme research working paper; restricted] p. 18). At any rate, Yugoslavia's
hopes have not yet been fulfilled.
- 21 -
(d) Stirrings at UNCTAD
Low-level and middle-level conferences of UNCTAD were seized in 1978 by the
taxation and compensation questions.
(1) Governmental Experts on Reverse Transfer of Technology
In spring 1978, a Group of Governmental Experts met to consider the studies
undertaken by or for UNCTAD on the brain drain (among them the Bhagwati and
Pomp-Oldman papers footnoted above). The Representative of Jordan submitted
a number of recommendations on behalf of the States Members of the Group of 77.1
The relevant sections start with the statement: "The emigration of skilled
manpower represents a transfer of productive resources and there is evident need
to take systematic account of this in international resource flow accounting.
The gains associated with skill flows between the recipient and source countries
should therefore be shared on the basis of reciprocity." The Group then urges
the developed countries "to institute arrangements whereby the developing
countries share in the economic gains accruing to developed countries from
skilled migration, by means of revenue-sharing arrangements...." The following
rationales were noted:
"(a) Where developing countries incur disruption and economic
difficulties in their economies, there is a cogent case for
financial assistance-cum-compensation so that they may
adjust to their loss of manpower with greater ease.
"(b) Where developing countries do not incur any measurable
disruption and their comparative advantage is in skill
production to export skills abroad, they can legitimately
improve their economic returns from such migration
through revenue-sharing arrangements; and
"(c) In so far as there is prima facie case for deducing that
the developed countries benefit from the inflow of skilled
migrants ... such benefits ... may legitimately be shared
1 See UNCTAD: Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Reverse
Transfer of Technology, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from
27 February to 7 March 1978 (doc. TD/B/C.6/28 and TD/B/C.6/AC.4/10), Annex I.
These recommendations were supported by the socialist countries.
- 22 -
through income-tax revenue-sharing arrangements with
the developing countries from which these skilled migrants
The position paper of the Group of 77 then refers to the Bhagwati-and
Pomp-Oldman tax proposals already mentioned, as well as to Jordan's suggestion
for an ILCF.
The experts of the industrialized market economy countries were not at
all of the same opinion as their colleagues from developing countries. They
played down the tax proposals and the ILCF and considered that "any compensatory
scheme runs the risk of exacerbating rather than mitigating the brain drain
problem since it puts a premium on brain drain flows".
As a result, the Agreed Conclusion and Recommendations of the Group
of Governmental Experts on Reverse Transfer of Technology were devoid of
substantive agreement on the tax and compensation issues raised.
(2) Commission on Transfer of Technology
In December 1978, UNCTAD's next highest body was confronted with the same
problems.3 A Resolution on the Development Aspects of Reverse Transfer of
Technology was adopted but no substantial progress was made. The spokesman
for the industrialized market economy countries explicitly stated that its
adoption by consensus should not lead to the assumption that the position
of his group had changed in so far as compensation for the brain drain was
(e) A Broader Perspective
UNCTAD's extensive concern with the migration of "brains" has on several
occasions been questioned by industrialized market economy countries. The
delimitation of its competence within the UN system is difficult: how is one
See ibid., Annex II
2 Ibid., pp. 25-28.
3 See UNCTAD: Report of the Commission on Transfer of Technology
on its Second Session, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from
4t15 December 1978 (doc. TD/B/C.6 [II]/Misc. 4, 12 January 1979), Pp. 40-48
- 23 -
to separate validly the flows of highly-qualified people or of trained personnel
from the flows of skilled or even unskilled workers? Moreover, UNCTAD
han for very understandable reasons shied away from posing the compensation
issue in migration between developing countries. But one may ask: why
should brain drain categodes be singled out artificially? And: why should
rich developing immigration countries be spared compensation? Why be
concerned with only a small minority of contemporary migration movements?1
Since my first writing on compensation, I have rejected the Bhagwati and
UNCTAD-type limitations as being incompatible with a consistent analysis
and a universalistic approach. There is no need here to go into details.
I have subsequently developed my considerations in a comprehensive frame
work. I am prepared to admit that they apply with greater force to industrial
nation states than they do to others. A summary with some inevitable
simplification goes as follows.
There was a stock of at least 20 million foreign or migrant workers
in the mid-1970s. (See W.R. Bbhning: "Some facts and figures on international
economic migration", forthcoming in French in Population.) According to
UNCTAD's own estimates, which freely mix gross flows and stocks, one can arrive
at a "rough. global total Ior developing-to-developed country skill flows of
about 420,000 ... as at the early of mid-1970s." (See Development aspects
of the reverse transfer of technology, Note by the UNCTAD secretariat
Ldoc. TD/B/C.6/41, 29 November 1978J p. 4).
W.R. BShning: Compensating countries of origin for the out-migration
of their people (Geneva, ILO, December 1977Y mimeographed World Employment
Programme research working paper; restricted.)
On the occasion of the UNECWA Seminar on Population and Development
in the ECWA Region, 18-50 November 1978, Amman, Jordan. W.R. Bbhning:
Elements of a theory of international migration and compensation (doc. E/ECWA/
POP/WG.12/BP.16). This paper was also issued as a mimeographed ILO World
Employment Programme research working paper; and it formed the base of ILO:
International economic migration, paper prepared for the ACC Task Force on
Long-Term Objectives of Development Planning (Geneva, December 1978).
The conclusions of the 1978 ECWA Seminar contain the following
paragraph: "To take into account, at the Arab level, co-ordination and
complementarity in the utilisation of financial and human resources and to work
for the establishment of a fair system to compensate the Arab countries (that
are) exporters of manpower for the loss of their skilled labour and the expense
they incurred in their training and to utilise these compensations in social
and economic development projects which have wide public benefits". (doc. E/ECWA
POP/WG.12/2, 13 June 1979, p. 2).
- 24 -
Contemporary nation states generally admit (apart from passing crewmen,
visiting businessmen, newsmen or tourists) four distinct types of foreign
m I gralnt:
(i) refugees, i.e. persons who leave their own country for
another because of a well-founded fear of persecution by
reasons of race, religion, nationality, political association
or social grouping;
(ii) economically active persons, for the purpose of
(iii) a residual category such as pilgrims, ministers of
religion, diplomatic and assimilated personnel,
students, volunteers sponsored publicly or by charity,
retired or other persons living entirely on their
(iv) a derivative category, namely the parents, spouses,
siblings and children of some or all of the preceding
Immigration on demographic grounds is a fifth and partly overlapping
category; it is the exception rather than the rule and can be neglected for
all practical purposes.
Compensation can conceivably be related only to the second category.
Due to the fact that the world is organised according to the principles of
nation states, international economic migration movements are in essence
determined by the countries that wish to admit foreigners, or that tolerate
their presence, rather than by the countries of out-migration. Furthermore,
the in-migration of economically active foreigners is governed, not by altruistic
or humanitarian considerations, but by the economic demand for them. A
nation state considers opening its borders if land or capital are not
utilised to their potential. Foreigners that are explicitly admitted, or
implicitly tolerated, for the purpose of employment, help to provide real
goods as well as value added. The value of the migrants' activity comprises
their income plus the income accruing to the various co-operant factors of
production land, other labour, and capital. It follows that the in-migration
- 25 -
country's national product rises in terms of both the supply of rekl goods
and money.1 The income received by migrants stays to a large extent in the
country of employment. A portion of it is sometimes remitted to dependants
in the countries of origin. By and large, however, the value added deriving
from migrant labour is internalised in the migrant-receiving country. As a
consequence, its economic and political agents grow stronger and more powerful
vis-a-vis their competitors. For the country of origin, on the other hand, the
income and production gains deriving from the outflow of its human resources
are neither immediate nor assured (which does not mean, as is sometimes
maintained, that they are on balance negligible or negative). Even in the long
run they cannot match in size the gains reaped by the country of employment,
let alone enable the country of origin to catch up. It therefore follows that
international labour migration contributes to the widening gap between poor
and rich countries in terms of the provision of goods, income and power.
And, in principle, it does so regardless of the skill level of the migrant and
the expense that has gone into his education.
International economic migration is an inherently inequitable resource
transfer. In my view, equity or solidarity demands that the migrant's country
of nationality be compensated by the advancing country of employment, on a
regular and contractual basis rather than on the basis of charity. I would
suggest to consider establishing the criteria for liability for compensation
by reference to a certain level of economic well-being. One could, for example,
exempt countries of employment if their per capital income is lower than
There is no room to go into the question of distribution. Some
sections, such as private employers of immigrant workers, may well profit more
than others. Whether or not competing national workers suffer a relative or
absolute setback in terms of the supply of goods and/or income, in the short
term or the long term, is too complicated a question to be validly examined
on a few pages.
The conceptual framework used here assigns that part of a migrant's
income which is spent and saved in the country of employment to that country,
and that part which is remitted to his country of citizenship (or origin or
last residence) to the latter. This is in accordance with both national
accounting practice and reality. The fact that a migrant-sending country
has thousands of citizens earning incomes abroad does not make it richer or
better off by the amount of remuneration received by these migrants.
- 26 -
the average of developed market economy countries.
(f) The 1979 Conferences of UNCTAD, ILO and UNCSTD
The supreme bodies of UNCTAD and ILO faced the compensation issue in
(i) UNCTAD V
In May 1979, UNCTAD V considered a Resolution on Development Aspects
of the Reverse Transfer of Technology, which was eventually adopted without
dissent. Apart from re-stating pertinent sections of earlier UNCTAD documents,
the resolution calls on "the international community" to "consider examining,
in the light of the in-depth study by the Secretary-General of the United
Nations, possible arrangements whereby developing countries experiencing
large-scale outflows of their skilled professionals which cause economic
disruptions could secure assistance in dealing with adjustment problems
arising therefrom (para. 9.D. [i], my emphasis).
Two points are worth noting. First, the word "compensation", which
drew fire from the First World, had to be replaced by the word "assistance".
Opponents of the idea of compensation may now say that compensation is one
thing, which is not acceptable, and assistance is another, which is acceptable.
Proponents of compensation will naturally contest this. It is also possible
to argue that the term "compensation" was somewhat ambiguous and undefined
from the start; that it nevertheless clearly meant financial assistance
measures; and that the position paper of the Group of 77 submitted to the
1978 UNCTAD Group of Governmental Experts already spoke of "financial
assistance-cum-compensation" as though it was one and the same notion
(see quote above, p. 10).
Second, whatever arrangement might be discussed, its justification
would have to be predicated on the existence of brain-drain-inflicted economic
disruption in the developing emigration country, rather than on any gains
of the migrant-receiving country.
(2) The Follow-up to the World Employment Conference
In June 1979, the 65th Session of the International Labour Conferencel
had before it a draft Resolution concerning Follow-up to the World Employment
Conference which mentioned compensation several times but where the word
1 To which had been submitted a report that made several innocuous
references to compensation. See ILO: Follow-up of the World Employment
Conference: Basic needs (Geneva, 1979), PP. 96-7 and 116.
- 27 -
was finally replaced by the word "assistance".1 The Resolution calls on
States "to conclude multilateral and bilateral agreements for solving the
problems of migrant workers in host and home countries. These could provide,
where appropriate, for ... possible schemes to assist developing countries
especially in the area of training, welfare services, taxation and re-
employment" (para. II. C[d], my emphasis). It also suggests that the ILO
promotes and, on request, assists in consultations or negotiations between
emigration and immigration countries with a view to "ensuring that the
interests of both sending and receiving countries are safeguarded and, in
particular, that migration does not deprive countries of origin of scarce
labour required for their development and, whenever appropriate, undertaking
assistance and cooperation schemes in such areas as training, re-employment,
taxation and welfare services" (para III. Migration [a] [iii], my emphasis).
Finally, it cites the paragraph of the UNCTAC V Resolution quoted above and
asks the ILO to co-operate with UNCTAD in examining these matters.
(5) The UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development
During the preparations of the draft programme of action of UNCSTD
an international compensation fund under UN auspices was proposed. The
August 1979 Vienna conference adopted the principle of establishing some-
time in the 1980s a financing system for Science and Technology for Develop-
ment. It was agreed that contributions to the system could include
"resources that may accrue from the proposed 'international labour compen-
satory facility' related to the reverse transfer of technology". (Report
of the Second Committee, UN document A/CONF. 81/14, 29 August 1979, p. 10).
SILO: Provisional record, No. 42, International Labour Conference,
65th Session, Geneva, 1979.
- 28 -
TV, WHAT FUTURE?
Is compensation dead before it has seen the light of day? There is
no reason to be unduly pessimistic. If but a single government of an
immigration country were moved by the call for solidarity, the technical
problems of giving life to compensation would fade into insignificance.
Under certain conditions, one can also envisage that emigration countries
supplying significant numbers of people to one or several immigration
countries, join hands in order to make themselves heard.1
I should like to add two points which I consider crucial for the
future of compensation. First, compensation should be freely negotiated,
in a spirit of solidarity rather than of charity. It should give rise to
a contractual, long-term and binding commitment; because only in this way
would it afford the weaker emigration country the opportunity to utilise
the additional resources effectively.
Second, one should not blur the two issues of national and inter-
national distributive justice. To extend the income tax system to one's
citizens working abroad is perfectly legitimate and desirable, although
one should make sure that this does not lead to onerous double taxation.
Tax allowances aiming to support poor countries are also worth wishing for.
But neither has anything to do with international solidarity or inter-
societal equity. Taxing migrants is no substitute for international revenue-
See C.W. Stahl and W.R. BBhning: Reducing migration dependence
in Southern Africa (Geneva, ILO, April 1979; mimeographed World Employ-
ment Programme research working paper; restricted).
D. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION
AND THE INTERNATIONAL
W. R. Bahning
(International Labour Office)
- 30 -
Mankind has witnessed migration since time immemorial.
Wars, persecution, climatic changes and economic forces have
been the principal movers of people. This paper is concerned
only with economic migration, irrespective of whether it is
intended to be temporary or permanent by the migrant or the
people he joins.
International migration in the proper sense of the word is
a comparatively recent phenomenon, dating back no more than the
two or three hundred years since the idea of the nation state
took hold in Europe and spread from there to the rest of the
world. The nation state is a sovereign and exclusivist order
that is tempered by international economic relations, political
power relationships as well as humanitarian considerations. The
nation state draws a clear border line around it over which
non-nationals may not step without its consent. Whether or not,
and if so under what conditions, the borders open to economically
active foreigners and their dependants depends on how the nation's
influential members and groups seek to realise the state's
fundamental goal, which is to satisfy the wants and promote the
welfare of nationals.1
As regards the international economic order, over time
countries have taken the step from toleration of unilateral
measures to joint declaration of common goals and codification
of the rules governing the achievement of such goals through the
flows of goods, money and people. Indeed, what order means is
to give a normative character and a legal form to both the
fundamental objectives on which there is agreement and the
organisational rules or procedures to achieve them. The purpose
of an economic order, when it is established among partners of
1 See W.R. BBhning: Elements of a theory of international
migration and compensation (Geneva, ILO, November 1978; mimeo-
graphed World Employment Programme research working paper;
- 31 -
comparable bargaining power, is to minimise conflicts and to
maximise mutual benefits. Sanctions, between countries,
naturally assume a different form than they do within countries.
Lest the impression arises that I view international
migrants merely in functional terms, as another commodity, and
in order to point out the peculiarity of international migration,
may I indicate briefly that the movements of people strike
deep chords and in doing so touch off conflicting emotions, thus
inevitably creating tensions. On the one hand, migrants commonly
suffer some personal hardship some of the time and they usually
find themselves in a weak position relative to the powers that
be. On top of that, contemporary movements go chiefly from poor
to rich countries. As solidarity with the weak and suffering
is one of man's natural tendenciesto which all major religions
pay homage, emotional sympathy and political support can be
mobilised at the national and international level in favour of
actual migrants and even in favour of certain kinds of migration.
On the other hand, the appearance of newcomers ordinarily raises
material anxieties and often sets off ethnic or racial defensive
mechanisms or even hostility. It is within this field of acute
tensions that international migration has to find its place in
the international economic order.
II. FROM MERCANTILISM TO THE THE PRESENT
The first discernible influence of prescriptive economic
and political thought on the international flows of economically
active people can be attributed to Colbert's mercantilism, which
gripped continental Europe since the beginning of the 18th century.
The mercantilists viewed the possession of money and the growth
of population as the source of prosperity and power. They flung
open the doors to foreign workers, especially craftsmen, but
closed then to goods; while at the same time they were determined
to prevent the emigration of citizens to their competitors and to
boost the export of their own products. "The resulting pressure
on wages and the extremely unequal distribution of incomes were
deliberately accepted, as the ruling classes obviously found
greater advantages in keeping manufactured exports competitive
- 32 -
by means of cheap labour than allowing the emigration pressure
to take its course."l
Contemporaneously, the slave trade developed, for much the
same reasons but with an extra-European focus out of sight, out
of mind as far as the material and ethnic or racial defense
mechanisms are concerned.2 The abolition of slavery due to
humanistic forces was quickly followed by the introduction of
the indentured labour system, which was slavery in all but name
but which involved smaller numbers.3
Mercantilism was powerfully assailed in the 19th century
by liberalism which eventually turned into imperialism. The
restrictions on capital flows and trade were dismantled, except
for "infant industries". Access to raw materials and potential
markets overseas was sought. Population size, broad-based economic
strength and an international transport structure were regarded
as the yardsticks of power (and it is no coincidence that the
sea, which yielded benefits to all, represented the most advanced
and codified sector of the then international economic order).
The liberalisation of population movements, however, was
viewed with a great deal more circumspection. Imperialism did
not disallow citizens to emigrate, but rarely did it encourage
or assist them (the French settlements of Algeria and the assisted
passage scheme from Britain to Australia being two notable
exceptions). Countries welcomed easily assimilable foreigners
as settlers, i.e. those who were judged to be of a similar race
and culture. But they called on others merely to use their brawn
1K.H. Hbpfner and M. Huber: Regulating international migra-
tion in the interest of the developing countries: With particular
reference to Mediterranean countries (Geneva, ILO, February 1978;
mimeographed World Employment Programme research working paper;
restricted), page 12.
2Between 11 and 15 million slaves are estimated to have been
shipped to the Americas, though only a fraction of them to North
America; see K. Davis: "The migrations of human populations", in
Scientific American, Vol. 231, No. 3 (September 1974).
The best informed estimate of the numbers of indentured
labourers engaged under official auspices during the first 40 years
of the system is: "over a million Indian labourers ... though the
figure could be as high as two million". H. Tinker: A new system
of slavery: The export of Indian labour overseas, 1830-1920
(Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 115.
- 33 -
when and for as long as needed witness, for example, the
indentured labour system, the building of the Panama Canal,
the "new" immigration after the Civil War in the United States,1
and the German "Gastarbeiter" system prior to the First World
When World War I and the depression dragged the European
world down, the reflex was to shut oneself off to keep out
unwanted goods and people and to protect industries and jobs
in the name of the nation. The period between the two World
Wars marks the introduction of ubiquitous immigration controls.3
The largely unwritten goals and rules of the old "laissez
faire" international economic order in this new period were
broadened to accommodate the claims of the economically weak,
and were codified. This happened through the establishment of
the International Labour Organisation in 1919. Its Constitution
contained several components of the first, almost globally agreed,
international economic order. The ILO's main goal was upwardly
to harmonise working and living conditions throughout the world
(particularly because the threat of cheap imports obtained at
the cost of both the producing and the affected workers loomed
See M.J. Piore: Birds of passage: Migrant labour and
industrial societies (Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 149 ff.
See R.E. Rhoades: "Foreign labor and German industrial
capitalism 1871-1978: The evolution of a migratory system", in
American Ethnologist, Vol. 5, No. 3 (1978), pp. 553-573.
3 Even in the United States. In that country, the reasons
for control were part of the broader ideological, rather than the
narrower economic, dimension of imperialism. In 1921 and 1924,
the U.S. Congress passed laws designed to maintain the cultural
and racial homogeneity of the U.S. by the admission of immigrants
in proportions corresponding to the composition of the white
population. Latin American countries were excluded from the
quota provisions, which ensured that Mexican labourers could be
called upon as and when needed. On the latter, see the valuable
work by M. Reisler: By the sweat of their brow: Mexican
immigrant labor in the United States, 1900-1940 (Westport, Conn.,
Greenwood Press, 1976).
large).1 Moreover, the constitution charged the ILO with the
"protection of the interests of workers when employed in
countries other than their own." These noble objectives were
to be pursued through the continuous formulation and adoption
of minimum standards of good practice by way of an international
quasi-legislative process followed by a quasi-juridicial review
of the application of these standards.2
Before long the globe was engulfed in another World War.
However, from its ashes arose with renewed vigour a new liberal
international order. The Bretton Woods conference, which gave
birth to the Bank for International Reconstruction and Development
as well as the International Monetary Fund, and the San Francisco
conference, which baptised the United Nations, designated these
new institutions as guardians of the neo-liberal order alongside
Throwing off the inter-war shackles on trade and liquidity,
the First World experienced a rapid and widespread rise in living
standards. The most advanced industrial countries found
themselves short of workers, or rather: with an excess of capital.
Typically, it was the socially least regarded jobs, which were
often the worst paid or least secure, that could not be filled
with nationals (and quantum jumps in relative wages were in
general not a feasible remedy, especially not in the "secondary
Its constitution starts with the words:
"Whereas universal and lasting peace can be established
only if it is based upon social justice;
And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such
injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of
people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and
harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement
of those conditions is urgently required ..
Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane
conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other
nations which desire to improve the conditions in their
2 See ILO: International labour standards: A workers'
education manual (Geneva, 1978), for an authoritative introduc-
tion to the subject, and K.T. Samson: "The changing pattern of
ILO supervision", in International Labour Review, Vol. 118, No. 5,
- 34 -
- 35 -
labour market", and certainly not when the rat-race of economic
growth required that the jobs be filled immediately; nor could
wage rises have changed drastically the social perception of
certain activities).1 Therefore, the restrictions on the inflow
of such numbers of people as were needed were relaxed in a
calculated fashion: workers were welcome, even actively
recruited, but rarely were they supposed to stay or bring their
families.2 Narrow economic and manpower considerations,
supplemented by foreign policy preferences, took hold of the
international migration scene.
In the traditional settlement countries of North America
the reassertion of liberal values led in the 1960s to the removal
of the ethnic and racial discrimination that had come to form
part of their immigration laws.3 One of the side effects was
a nearly instantaneous increase in the number of people with
high qualifications originating from developing countries.
Together with the non-return of students that one began to notice
at the same time, this was the source of the "brain drain"
1 For partly competing and partly overlapping explanations
of labour shortages, see Piore, op. cit.; A. Portes (ed.):
Illegal Mexican immigrants to the United States, special issue
of International Migration Review, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Winter 1974),
particularly his own contribution therein; and W.R. BBhning:
"Determinants of labour immigration in industrialized countries
of Western Europe", in Basic aspects of immigration and return
migration in Western Europe (Geneva, ILO, July 1975; mimeographed
World Employment Programme research working paper, restricted).
Demographic factors and variations in labour force participation
did at times reinforce the underlying socio-economic causes of
shortages but were not as such responsible for them.
2It did not require a sophisticated cost-benefit analysis to
know that the immigration countries would gain from the productive
employment of workers whose upbringing, education and training had
cost them nothing; whose health care would cost them almost nothing;
whose wife and children would cost them nothing if they could be
held abroad; whose housing requirements could paternalistically
be assumed to be negligible given the worker's background and his
high cost-motivation during a supposedly temporary stay; and whose
old-age pensions would not have to be paid for if the worker's
length of residence was insufficient to qualify. See, for example,
R.C. Blitz: "A benefit-cost analysis of foreign workers in West
Germany, 1957-1973", in Kyklos, Vol. 30, Fasc. 3 (1977), pp. 479-502
For the U.S. this change has been documented by the
architect of the Immigration Act of 1965, see A.P. Schwartz:
The open society (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968).
- 36 -
The movements of both ordinary migrant workers and highly
qualified personnel fitted the neo-liberal international economic
order. Its migration component was first codified in one of the
ILO's labour standards, as follows:
It should be the general policy of Members to
develop and utilise all possibilities of employ-
ment and for this purpose to facilitate the
international distribution of manpower and in
particular the movement of manpower from countries
which have a surplus of manpower to those that
have a deficiency.
The technical selection of migrants for employment
should be carried out in such a way as to restrict
migration as little as possible while ensuring
that the migrants are qualified to perform the
As far as possible, intending migrants for employment
should, before their departure from the territory of
emigration, be examined for purposes of occupational
and medical selection by a representative of the
competent authority of the territory of immigration.
In order to recruit migrants required to meet the
technical needs of the territory of immigration and
who can adapt themselves easily to the conditions
in the territory of immigration, the parties shall
determine criteria to govern technical selection of
1 The first three quotes are from the Migration for Employ-
ment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 paragraphs 4(1), 14(1) and
14(4); the last is from article 5(3) of the Model Agreement on
Temporary and Permanent Migration annexed thereto (my emphasis).
Honesty impels me to mention the existence of the Protection of
Migrant Workers (Underdeveloped Countries) Recommendation, 1955,
which contains a section concerned with measures to discourage
migratory movements when considered undesirable in the interests
of the migrant workers and of the communities and countries of
their origin. However, the 1955 Recommendation has never led an
active life, partly for technical reasons since it is not
accompanied by a Convention that Governments are held to apply.
- 37 -
The leitmotiv of the neo-liberal order, then, was that
economic growth should not be held up in one country for lack
of labour so long as there was suitable labour available else-
where, irrespective of the skills involved and quite irrespective
of the short-term or long-term interests of the emigration
countries involved.1 The objectives and the instruments were
clearly and normatively biased in favour of the immigration
Immigration countries increasingly implemented the economic-
cum-manpower approach. The European experience is sufficiently
well known not to require further exposition.3 The Canadian
Government was inspired by this approach when it introduced the
variable points system in 1967 and the temporary employment
visas in 1972.4 Immigration into Australia varied broadly in
line with labour market conditions and the assisted in-flow was
actually fine-tuned so as to accord with them,5 even though the
stipulated goal of adding one per cent to the population through
1This found further international expression in for
instance, the Decision of the OEEC (subsequently OECD) Council
of October 1953 (C 251 [Final]); and the free movement
provisions of the European Coal and Steel Community and, more
importantly, of the European Economic Community.
Another example of the normative bias in international law
is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives everyone
the right "to leave any country, including his own" (article 13(2)),
but does not give anybody the right to enter any country, except
SSee e.g. D. Kubat, U. Mehrlander and E. Gehmacher (eds.):
The politics of migration policies: The First World in the 1970s
(New York, Center for Migration Studies, 1979); and R.E. Krane
(ed.): International Labour Migration in Europe (New York etc.,
4See L. Parai: Canada's immigration policy 1962-73
(University of Western Ontario, mimeographed, 1974); and D. Kubat:
"Canada", in Kubat, op. cit.
5 See M.J. Salter: Studies in the immigration of the highly
skilled (Canberra, A.C.T., and Norwalk, Conn., Australian National
University Press, 1978); also A.C. Kelly and R.M. Schmidt:
"Modelling the role of government policy in post-war Australian
immigration", in The Economic Record, Vol. 55, No. 149 (June 1979),
- 38 -
immigration was not officially discarded until the mid-1970s.
And in the U.S. already before 1965 the labour market element
in the form of the official "bracero" programmed outstripped
the numbers of family members and refugees admitted essentially
on humane grounds;2 while the third and sixth preference of
the 1965 Act have given legal immigration a more directly economic
flavour and illegal inflows are generally said to dwarf the former
numbers of braceross" and can sometimes be seen to enjoy unofficial
III. 'THE NEO-LIBERAL ORDER UNDER ATTACK
The normative bias in favour of immigration countries and
their calculated economic approach went unquestioned for many
years. Consequently, the preferential satisfaction of the needs
of the immigration countries richer or more developed as they
were than the emigration countries reinforced the inequality
pre-dating migration. Firstly, because the demand-determined
hiring of migrants produces besides income accruing to land,
capital and labour additional goods or services for private
and public consumption, all of which are by and large internalised
in the immigration country. Nothing comparable happens in the
migrant-sending countries. Their possible gains in real product
1Not to mention the sizeable illegal migration reflected
in INS apprehension data.
2 In any case, at least half the family members and refugees
became economically active after entry, thus contributing
significantly to labour force growth.
SSee E.R. Stoddard: "A conceptual analysis of the 'Alien
Invasion': Institutionalised support of illegal Mexican aliens
in the U.S.", in International Migration Review, Vol. 10 (Summer
1976), pp. 157-189.
- 39 -
and income cannot match those of the migrant-receiving countries.
Secondly, because the candidates for migration are selected so as
to match requirements and minimise non-productive aspects, which
does not stop short of sending migrants home when they are no
longer needed. Furthermore, the labour demand approach proceeds
from the assumption that labour should adjust internationally to
historically derived economic differentials, that is, it reacts
to the symptoms of international imbalances in the distribution
of income and employment opportunities rather than to their causes.
It was an industrial country, the United Kingdom, which first
exhibited anxieties about :the brain drain in the mid-1960s; and
it was not until the early 1970s that the more developed of the
Southern European countries with ordinary migrant workers abroad
began to question the prevailing economic-cum-manpower approach.
Developing countries had only just become involved in the brain
drain importantly; and those that were sending ordinary migrants
were too much pre-occupied by the ebb and flow of national and
international capital to assess in depth what appeared as a self-
evident blessing. It was countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain
and Yugoslavia which pressed the ILO and the OECD to throw light
on the utility of contemporary labour movements for emigration
countries. Only during the heady days of the proclamation of the
New International Economic Order, i.e. in the mid-1970s, did some
developing countries query the migration from South to North;
and one of the leading countries, Algeria, went on to cut its
institutionalized migration links with its former colonial master,
The studies undertaken by, or within the framework of the
ILO and OECD,indicated that the main economic benefits of emigration
(relief of unemployment, productive use of remittances and utilisa-
tion of skills upon return) were far less certain than had been
assumed and that the demand-determined pattern contributed to
1 See S. Adler: International migration and dependence
(Westmead, Saxon House/ Teakfield Ltd., 1977), pp. 83 ff and
- 4U -
the widening gap between poor and rich countries.1
In 1976 the ILO's World Employment Conference broke with
the old normative bias. The Government, Employers' and Workers'
delegates from 121 countries unanimously agreed on a Programme
of Action which gives equal weight to the interests of the home
countries of migrants and ranges social considerations alongside
economic ones. The form of the agreement is non-binding but its
moral force is indisputable. Paragraph 41 of the Programme of
Action states that multilateral and bilateral migration agreements
"should be based upon the economic and social needs of the
countries of origin and the countries of employment; they should
take account not only of short-term manpower needs and resources,
but also of the long-term social and economic consequences of
migration, for migrants as well as for the communities concerned."
Paragraph 42 amplifies: "One of the principal objectives of
mutually accepted policies in the framework of these agreements
should be to even out fluctuations in migration movements, return
migration flows and remittances and make them as far as possible
predictable, continuous and assured so as to facilitate the
implementation of long-term programmes of economic and social
developments." In paragraph 43 a number of concrete measures are
foreseen to achieve these goals.2
The recommendations of the ILO and OECD studies and the
Programme of Action of the World Employment Conference aimed to
increase the pay off from the migration opportunities for the
poorer and weaker countries rather than fundamentally to alter
the neo-liberal order. During the World Employment Conference
a number of developing countries wished the Programme of Action
1 For a sampling, see ILO: "Migration of workers as an element
in employment policy", in Some growing employment problems in Europe,
Report II, Second European Regional Confereice (Geneva, ILO, 1973),
pp. 81-110; W.R. Bfhning: Some thoughts on emigration from the Medi-
terranean basin", in International Labour Review, Vol. III, No. 3
(March 1975), pp. 251-277; idem: Mediterranean workers in Western
Europe: Effects on home countries and countries of employment
(Geneva, ILO, September 1975; mimeographed World Employment Programme
research working paper; restricted); idem: "Migration from-developing
to high-income countries", in ILO: Tripartite World Conference on
Employment Income Distribution and Social Progress and the Interna-
tional Division of Labour, Background Papers, Vol. II: International
Strategies for Employment (Geneva, 1976), pp. 119-158; and
J.N. Bhagwati: "The brain drain", ibid. pp. 139-160. OECD: The OECD
and international migration (Paris, 1975); and idem: The migratory
chain [Paris, 19'8).
2 See below p.46, footnote 2.
- 41 -
to refer explicitly to measures of financial compensation for
the relative disadvantages suffered through emigration. However,
the leading industrialized market economy countries were
resolutely opposed. One year later, in the keynote speech to
the ILO's annual conference, a Third World spokesman of emigration
countries pointed to the "imbalance in terms of return" between
capital and labour exports which was bound to widen further the
gap between rich and poor countries and hence called for inter-
national financial arrangements to recompense the labour
exporting countries for the unrequited loss of labour.1 A UN
General Assembly Resolution followed in the wake of the speech.
The question of the international distribution of the gains from
migration had therefore been put on the agenda of international
Behind the concern with international equity lay the realisation
that national policy measures on the side of individual emigration
countries are insufficient to tip the balance of gains greatly in
their favour since the productive effects of international
migration in the sending countries cannot match those in the
receiving countries. Even if the national policy measures of
the World Employment Conference's Programme of Action were
implemented effectively in the fields of selection, training,
SAddress by H.R.H. Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. ILO: International Labour Conference,
63rd Session, Record of Proceedings (Geneva, 1978), pp. 279-283.
In the framework of the first ministerial-level meeting of
the OECD Committee of Manpower and Social Affairs in March 1976
the Ministers of Labour agreed "on the need for international
co-operation so as to avoid beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the
employment field. For example, major changes in migration flows
between some European Member countries call for intensified co-
operation between host countries and countries of origin, so that
the burden of adjustment can be more equitably shared and economic
and social development promoted" (Communiqu6).
2 I have recently retraced the history of compensation, see
W.R. BBhning: "The idea of compensation in international migration",
paper prepared for the Second Regional Population Conference of
ECWA, 1-6 December 1979, Damascus.
- 42 -
return, etc., this would still not entail an equitable balance
of gains. The concern with equity is a call for new or
additional gains by new or additional mechanisms (the old ones
being, by definition, incapable of equity and therefore in need
of corrective or supplementary measures). International labour
movements can only be equitable if there are international
instruments or bodies to redistribute the gains from migration
with binding force in favour of the poorer emigration countries.
IV. THE NEW INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER AND
While the industrial member countries of the ILO and OECD came
under pressure from their poorer emigration partners, the Third
World (supported by the socialist countries) put the First World
under pressure for a general recasting of the international
economic order. This resulted in UN General Assembly resolutions
3201 (S-VI) and 3202 (S-VI) of May 1974 concerning the Declaration
and Programme of Action on the Establishment of a New International
Economic Order (adopted subject to certain reservations);
resolution 3281 (XXIX) of December 1974 containing the Charter of
Economic Rights and Duties of States (adopted on a divided vote);
and resolution 3362 (S-VII) of September 1975 concerning Development
and International Economic Co-operation (adopted unanimously).
An analysis of these basic documents on the NIEO shows that
(a) the market principles of the old liberal order are not
called into question but its distributional aspects are,
i.e. the equity of the gains from international economic
(b) several areas are covered comprehensively, notably trade
and raw materials, some are covered partially, such as
capital flows, and others are neglected, in particular
international movements of labour.
Except for a passing reference to the brain drain,1 the UN
resolutions are silent on the migration dimension of international
1 "Since the outflow of qualified personnel from developing to
developed countries seriously hampers the development of the former,
there is an urgent need to formulate national and international
policies to avoid the 'brain drain' and to obviate its adverse
(continued on page 43.)
- 43 -
economic relations. One can try to deduce the role of interna-
tional migration in the NIEO from its general principles. But
this is unsatisfactory for two reasons. First, the objectives
and measures written into the NIEO lend themselves to different
(competing if not opposing) interpretations (for instance,
efficiency vs. justice). Second, the NIEO is dichotomous, in
that it juxtaposes the Third World and the developed market economy
countries, whereas international migration cuts across these
divisions as far as both the brain drain and ordinary migrant
workers are concerned.
Proposals by internationally renowned persons or groups for
changes in the international order tend to be variations of the
UN's NIEO, and they tend to be similarly silent on the migration
issue. The 1975 Dag Hammarskjold Report, prepared on the occasion
of the Seventh Special Session of the UN General Assembly and
entitled "Another Development",l is perhaps an exception. It
seems to go as far as substituting planning for market principles,
and it is more explicit about migration than any other text.
Rejecting the view that migrants should come to work in industrialized
countries, the Dag Hammarskjbld Report lists the redeployment of
industrial jobs as a primary objective of a new international
economic order and for this purpose suggests to
"conduct negotiations towards linking the reduction of
the temporary migration of unskilled workers with training
and production transfers to the Third World. Such
negotiations might include: training programme require-
ments for all countries employing immigrant workers,
related to their home-country skills and employment develop-
ment needs. Contracts with employing firms to stimulate
phased transfer of production to Thirld-World countries.
(footnote 1 continued from page 42)
effects." Resolution 3362 (S-VII), section III, paragraph 10.
There is a still more cryptic reference to the utilisation of
know-how and skills in co-operation among developing countries,
see section VI, paragraph 2 (a).
1 Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, What now? (Uppsala, 1975).
- 44 -
Enactment as well as enforcement of minimum wage,
incremental, social-security and housing provisions
broadly comparable to those of national workers for
all migrant workers, to assure the well-being of
those who for some years to come will still need
to work abroad. This would also make clear the true
economic cost of migrant workers to industrialized
countries and employers and thus encourage changes
in the location of production" (p. 97).1
T6vo~djrb's call for a global contract of solidarity, where
the rich countries would substantially help the poor countries
if these demonstrably helped their own poor,2 and Tinbergen's
Club of Rome Report3 contain no more than fleeting references to
obviating the need for emigration by the international re-deployment
The report of the Independent Commission on International
Development Issues, the so-called Brandt Commission, which will
be submitted to the UN General-Secretary sometime between the
writing and the publication of this paper, also touches upon the
international migration dimension. Its recommendations do not
seek to banish labour movements, but in the main call for the
application of the relevant ILO labour standards and for
implementation of the Programme of Action of the World Employment
V. WHAT FUTURE FOR INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION?
Since the late 19th century the developed countries have
controlled the inflow of economically active foreigners ever more
tightly. Since the 1970s many developing countries have tended
to view the outflow of highly qualified people and in some cases
1Elsewhere, the Report calls for the "abolition of unequal
economic relations" and in this context proposes to set "more
satisfactory guidelines for international migration of unskilled
workers and highly qualified personnel" (p. 64), but it does not
go into any detail.
2 A. Tevo6djr6: For a contract of solidarity, World Symposium
on the Social Implications of a New International Economic Order,
19-23 January 1976 (Geneva, International Institute for Labour
Studies). A journalist popularised this idea during the run-up to
the World Employment Conference: J. Cole: The poor of the earth
(London and Basingstoke, MacMillan, 1976).
3 J. Tinbergen et al.: Reshaping the international order: A
report to-the'Clib of Rome (Mew York, Dutton, 1976).
even of ordinary workers with misgivings. One of the developed
countries' unspoken assumptions is anthropological in nature,
namely that the migrants would feel happier and less alienated
if they lived with their peer groups in the cultural milieu into
which they were born. In the eyes of developing countries,
employment abroad is second-best to employment at home and
immigration countries should help to provide more attractive
alternatives to migration in the country of origin and thereby
obviate the need for emigration.
I believe that, anthropologically speaking, migration is an
irrepressible human urge. People have always wanted to move to
places with more spiritual freedom, greater political liberty or
higher standards of living (and the satisfaction of basic needs
in their country of origin does not constitute a threshold at which
the urge to migrate suddenly vanishes or loses it legitimacy).
The more tolerant the receiving State, the more attractive its
spiritual freedom and political liberty; the richer it is, the
stronger its economic pull. When tolerance and wealth go hand
in hand, man-made laws can attempt to regulate migration but they
cannot suppress it.
Economically speaking, migration represents for the individual
an escape from poverty (relative or absolute) and it relieves his
home country of mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and shelter -
even if it does not necessarily boost its productive capacity or
afford it other gains as it does the individual and the country
of employment. Whatever negative or inequitable effects migration
may have can be mitigated or compensated by national and inter-
national policy measures.1 There is therefore no need to decry
what is basically a useful phenomenon because of its avoidable
There is one exception in the contemporary world South
Africa. Here the relief function has been stunted in the extreme
and the moral, political and economic objections to migration under
conditions of apartheid add up to a formidable case for planned
withdrawal of the migrant labour force with the help of the interna-
tional community. See C.W. Stahl and W.R. Bohning: Reducing
migration dependence in southern Africa (Geneva, ILO, April 1979;
mimeographed world Employment 'rogramme research working paper;
- 45 -
- 46 -
If migration represents an opportunity for individuals to
escape from poverty and for their countries of origin to benefit
from it, then provided the conditions of selection and return
are just the international economic order should explicitly
recognize this and welcome it.1 The sort of conditions I have
in mind have been indicated by the Programme of Action adopted
at the 1976 World Employment Conference2 (to which should be
added unconditional equality of opportunity and treatment for
migrants in matters of economic and social rights, a question
to which I revert below).
And if, even under the right conditions, the gains from
migration to the migrant, his country of origin and the country
of employment remain demonstrably unequal, then the international
rules governing manpower movements should be changed with a view
to distributing the gains more equitably. Above all, it should
be an anachronism, in the future international division of labour,
to regard flows of manpower as a "free" production factor. As I
From another perspective, "serious questions must be raised
as to whether international migrant labor, if it continues to be
governed by no other 'laws' than crude world market mechanisms,
is acceptable in a world supposedly groping toward a 'new inter-
national economic order'. One could make the argument that since
many of the presently less developed countries helped underwrite
the growth of industrial societies and received substantial
numbers of the surplus European masses created by Europe's earlier
industrialization, the industrial countries now are morally bound
to accept workers from developing nations and afford them some
guarantees. Instead, there is an apparent conspiracy of silence
on this question in international fora (countries are reluctant
to acknowledge or perhaps do not want to draw attention to the
fact that so many of their people are forced to migrate). U.S.
policymakers have been equally remiss in coming to grips with
the issue..." E.M. Chaney: "The world economy and contemporary
migration", in International Migration Review, Vol. XIII, No. 2
(Summer 1979), p. 208.
2It calls for an end to the biased selection of candidates.
In future, priority is to be given to the recruitment of workers
"who are underemployed or unemployed", and the countries of employ-
ment are to "refrain from recruiting skilled and highly skilled
workers when there are recognized or potential shortages of such
workers in the country of origin" (paragraph 43 (e) and (g)). The
Programme also provides that the parties concerned (governments or
employers) should co-operate to impart the necessary skills before
before or after the move takes place (paragraph 43 (j)), a measure
that should prove particularly useful when publicly assisted
migration schemes bring forth only candidates whose skills are
insufficient to match notified or latent demand.
have treated elsewhere the question of compensating the countries
of origin for such flows,l I will put the remaining space here
to better effect.
The existing international labour standards2 do not, in
my view, effectively bar the de jure discrimination that has
become the hallmark of the present day immigration systems.
This is regrettable. It is perfectly legitimate to argue that
foreigners do not have a right to entry and that foreign workers
who do not qualify on family or other grounds should have a job
waiting for them. But I believe discrimination should cease
once the worker has been admitted to a non-temporary job.
Several countries refuse to accord migrant workers
unconditional equality of opportunity and treatment in matters
of economic and social rights. This is what the fundamental
principle of non-discrimination espoused by the United Nations
and the ILO would seem to require. And this is indeed the rule
in the traditional immigration countries, such as the United
States and Canada, for people admitted as immigrants. But it is
not the rule for foreign workers called upon to perform certain
jobs as "non-immigrants", and it is the exception rather than
the rule in the "guest worker" systems that are prevalent in
Western Europe. It is not the temporariness of migration which
is at issue here but the discrimination associated with it. For
example, by withholding at least initially certain social
security benefits from foreign workers, by keeping their families
separated and paying to those left behind the reduced family
allowances common in the countries of origin, and by inducing
and sometimes actually forcing migrants to return, the richer
countries of employment saddle the individual migrants and their
1 Compensating countries of origin for the out-migration of
their people (Geneva, ILO, December 1977; mimeographed World Employ-
ment Programme research working paper; restricted); Elements of a
theory of international migration and compensation (Geneva, ILO,
November 1978; mimeographed World Employment Programme research
working paper; restricted); and "The idea of compensation ...",
2The Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949; the
Migration for Employment Recommendation (Revised), 1949 ; the
Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975; and the
Migrant Workers Recommendation, 1975. The texts of the two Conven-
tions have been reproduced in W.R. Bbhning: Regularising Indocumen-
tados (Geneva, ILO, April 1979; mimeographed World Employment Pro-
gramme research working paper; restricted).
- 48 -
home countries with a burden which, in my opinion, they should not
be expected to bear, and in so doing impair the poverty relief
function of international migration.
The rationale for discrimination, namely that the foreigners
are not admitted as fully fledged immigrants because the nature
of their employment is temporary, is uncontroversial to the extent
that it is true.1 However, the great majority of foreign workers
admitted seasonally or for a period of 12 or 24 months are not
employed on temporary work. Jobs that will disappear after a
predictable standard period of 12 months or some such period are
infinitesimally small in number. It is therefore unreasonable to
deny migrants economic and social rights on the grounds that their
employment is formally designated as only temporary,2 or to grant
them rights only after a time. Discrimination, like equality,
is indivisible: if some rights are granted to migrants but others
refused, discrimination subsists: and if the grant of rights is
made subject in their case to a qualifying period, there is no
1 This is certainly the case for the categories excluded from
coverage by Convention No. 143, Article 11 (2), namely "... artists
and members of the liberal profession who have entered the country on
a short-term basis; ... persons coming specifically for purposes of
training or education; [and] employees of organizations or undertakings
operating within the territory of a country who have been admitted
temporarily to that country at the request of their employer to under-
take specific duties or assignments, for a limited and defined period
of time, and who are required to leave that country on the completion
of their duties or assignments".
One can justify withholding political rights from migrants on
grounds of nationality. However, Sweden and the Canton of NeuchAtel
in Switzerland have for some time granted voting and similar rights
at the level of municipalities and regions to migrants who are not
naturalised and may never want to change their nationality. See
ministbre du Travail, France: Les immigrds dans la cite: la represen-
tation des immigrds dans la vie publique en Europe, by C. Wihtol de
Wenden, collection Migrations et Soci6t4s, No. 3 (Paris, La Documenta-
tion frangaise, 1978).
3 It is possible, even likely, though not inevitable, that change
would lead to more permanent immigration than anticipated by "guest
worker" policies. However, the efficiency of these policies in
(continued on page 49)
- 49 -
If non-discrimination were to raise the economic cost of
immigration to the country or its employers, and if this were
to occasion some redeployment of industries to poor countries,
one has all the more reason to press for it.1
It goes without saying that any international economic order
should aim at obviating the need to emigrate. But even if that
were somehow miraculously achieved, there would doubtlessly still
be large numbers of people who would want to move in response to
economic differentials or for some other reason.
International migration opportunities will probably be sought
by increasing numbers of people in both developing and developed
countries. The former will generally experience greater population
pressure. The sheer numbers of poor people will grow in some
countries, stabilise in others and decrease elsewhere. But
however that may be, it is certain that the expectations of the
mass of the population in developing countries will rise as the
industrial countries advance and modem means of communication
tell of a better life. In developed countries, meanwhile, mobility
remains a functional imperative at practically all levels of skill.
In developed as well as developing immigration countries, economic
forces tend to open borders much of the time while social and
political forces tend to close them most of the time. This fact,
(footnote 3 continued from page 48)
preventing settlement has been much overrated. On the one hand,
the need for "guest workers" was structural rather than passing
and at the end of his contract a foreign worker either had to be
replaced or extended or recalled., In this way he eventually
accumulated the necessary number of years for family reunification
and immunity against forced return; and watchful national and inter-
national groups defended him against abuses. On the other hand, there
has always been, and there will always be, a considerable proportion
of truly voluntary return. In the case of Italians, for example, this
proportion is certainly higher than pride allows the traditional
settlement countries to admit, but it is only a little lower than
administrators of "guest worker" systems would be happy to permit.
The hotly disputed question whether ordinary migrant workers
depress relative wage growth in low skilled jobs and thus enable
labour-intensive industries to continue producing in industrial
countries, seems rather secondary compared with the across-the-board
strengthening of the richer countries which immigration entails.
Actually, the theory which predicts that migrants delay structural
change (U. Hiemenz and K.W. Schatz: Trade in place of migration: An
employment-oriented study with special reference to the Federal
Republic of Germany, Spain and Turkey [ILO, Geneva, 1979J) is
(continued on page 50.)
- 50 -
in conjunction with the growing emigration pressure, at best
makes non-immigrant or guest worker policies more likely and
at worst entails the threat of widespread illegal immigration.
It follows that we are faced with a trend towards discrimination
and exploitation. This trend should be resisted and reversed.
The future international economic order should not proscribe
migration it should welcome it. It should also ensure
unconditional equality of opportunity and treatment in matters
of economic and social rights for all immigration outside truly
To achieve these goals effectively and durably requires more
than a non-binding resolution or declaration-cum-programme of
action of the UN General Assembly or similar international
conferences. It requires at the very least the kind of inter-
national quasi-legislative and quasi-juridicial procedures which
the ILO has developed for Conventions.
(footnote 1 continued from page 49)
strangely unifactoLal and mechanical; and the empirical reality is,
to say the least, contradictory. See W.R. Bthning: "Mediterranean
workers ...", op. cit.; and G. Tapinos et al.: Possibilit6s de
transfer d'emploi vers les pays d'1migration en tant qu'alternative
aux migrations internationales des travailleurs: Le cas francais
(Gen ve, BIT, 1978; recherches pour le Programme mondial de 1 emploi,
documents de travail polycopi6s pour distribution restreinte).
- 51 -
E. ilRION_ ofMf!i_JC
WEP Research Working Papers are preliminary documents circulated informally
in a limited number of copies solely to stimulate discussion and critical comment.
They are restricted and should not be cited without permission. A set of selected
WEP Research Working Papers, completed by annual supplements, is available in
microfiche form for sale to the public; orders should be sent to ILO Publications,
International Labour Office, CH 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland.
In the following list the papers from this project of the WEP which are
already available in microfiche form are identified by the letter "H" following the
WP 1 Basic aspects of immigration and return migration in Western Europe
by W.R. Bahning, July 1965 (out of print)
"Determinants of labour immigration in industrialized countries of
Western Europe", pp. 5-23;
"Return migrants' contribution to the development process The issues
involved", pp. 24-38.
WP 2 Mediterranean workers in Western Europe: Effects on home countries apd
countries of employment*
by W.R. Bbhning, September 1975 (out of print)
= published in German: "Arbeitnehmer aus Mittelmeerlandern in
Westeuropa: Wirkungen auf Heimat- und Empfangslander", in R. Regul
(ed.): Die_ Epropischen Gemeinschaften und die Mittelmeerlander
(Baden-Baden, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1977), pp. 195-223.
= also available in Serbo-Croat, in "Inostrana Iskustva i Prevodi",
Bilten, Vol. 19, No. 44, 1976, pp. 25-71.
WP 3 IattlS.1Dat3.a1-aiaMatona_in S2utherjlfrica
by Francis Wilson, November 1975 (out of print)
= published in IRteravtionaA.iqgratonReview, Vol. X, No. 4, Winter
1976, pp. 451-488;
= also available as SALDRU Working Paper No. 1 (Cape Town, Southern
Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, Hay 1976).
WP 4 M Future demand for minant workers in Western Europe
by W.R. Bahning, January 1976 (out of print)
= also available in Serbo-Croat, in "Inostrana Iskustva i Prevodi",
Bilten, Vol. 19, No. 44, 1976, pp. 1-24.
WP 5 M Trnsfert d'emplois vers les pays qui disposent_ d'un surplus de main-
d'oeuvre commealt~rnative aux migrations internalionales: Le cagde_fl
par D. Maillat, C. Jeanrenaud et J.-Ph. Widmer, mai 1976 (out of print)
= shortened version published in Studi Emigrazione/Etudes Migrations,
Vol. XV, No. 51, September 1978, pp. 361-381.
WP 6 Basicaspectsf migration from poor to rich countries: Facts. problems,
by W.R. B6hning, July 1976 (out of print)
"Determinants of labour immigration in industrialized countries of
Western Europe", pp. 5-23 (reprint of WP 1);
*Much of this Working Paper has been worked into W.R. Bohning. "Migratipn
from Developing to High-Income Countries", in ILO: Tripartite World Conference on
Employment. Income Distribtion and Social Progress and the International Division
2f Labour, backround_ papers, Vol. I1; International strategies for employment
- 52 -
"Return migrants' contribution to the development process The issues
involved", pp. 23-38 (reprint of WP 1);
"Migration and policy: A rejoinder to Keith Griffin", pp. 39-50;
"The Migration of workers from poor to rich countries: Facts, problems,
policies", pp. 51-70.
= The latter paper has been published in IUSSP (ed.): International
Populalon Conference, Mexico, 1977, Vol. 2 (Liege, 1977), pp. 307-318.
P 7 Transfer of employment opportunities s asn alternative to the international
migration of workers; The case of the Federal Republic of Germany (I)**
by U. Hiemenz and K.-U. Schatz, August 1976
= parts published in German: "Internationale Arbeitsteilung als
Alternative zur Auslanderbeschaftigung Der Fall der Bundesrepublik
Deutschland", Die Weltwirtshaft, No. 1, 1977, pp. 35-58.
WP 8 M Transfert d'emplois vers les Days qua disposent d'un surplus de main-
dIoeuyvre comme alternative aux migrations intergationales: Leicas de la
par D. Maillat, C. Jeanrenaud, J.-Ph. Widmer, January 1977 (out of print)
= shortened version published under the title: "Transfert d'emplois et
d6s6quilibr6s r6gionaux", in P. Caroni, B. Dafflon and G. Enderle
(eds.): Nur Oetjonmie ist keine Oekonomie (Bern, Haupt, 1978), pp.
WP 9 Transfer of employment opportunities as an alternative to the internatiQal.
migration of workers: The case of Spain and Turkey vis-A-vis the Federal
Republic of Germany (II)**
by U. Hiemenz and K.-W. Schatz, April 1977.
WP 10 Black migration to South Afric What are the issues?
by W.R. B6hning, June 1977 (out of print).
WP 11 Labour exporti.n Southern Africa: Some welfare and policy implications
with_eIarqto a joint policy on recruitenLt ees
by Charles W. Stahl, July 1977.
WP 12 Swaziland laour migration Some implications for a national development
by M.H. Doran, August 1977 (out of print).
WP 13 migration and agricultural development in Swaziland: A micro-economic
by A.R.C. Low, August 1977 (out of print).
WP 14 H Transfert d'emlos vers les pays qua disposentfd'lan surplus de main
d'4.gyre comme alternative_ au migrations internationals: Le cas de a
Sui e (I) -_Le comPortement de entrepreneur face A la p4nurie de alin-
'oleuvre_ : sultats d'une enquOe par_ questionnaire
par C. Jeanrenaud, D. Maillat et J.-Ph. Widmer, September 1977 (out of
Shortened version published under the title: "Reactions of Swiss
employers to the immigration freeze", in International Labour Review,
Vol. 117, No. 6, November-December 1978, pp. 733-745;
= version abr6gee publi4e sous le titre: "Les entrepreneurs suisses face
a l'arret de l'immigration", Revue international du Travail, Vol. 117,
No. 6, novembre-d4cembre 1978, pp. 791-804 (reprinted in Hommes et
Migrations Documents, No. 972, 15 juin 1979, pp. 9-22).
**The two Working Papers Nos. 7 and 9 have been published in shortened form
as an ILO book. U. Hiemenz and K.W. Schatz: Trade in place of migration (Geneva,
1979); also in Spanish: Intercambio en vez de qigraci6n (Ginebra, 1979).
- 53 -
WP 15 M preliminary assessment _of _lagbor_ vement in the Arab -regoji
Background, perspectives and prospects
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, October 1977 (out of print).
WP 16 n FoZ ignmigrantlabour in Southern Africa; Studies onaccumulation in the
labourreserves demand determinants and supply relationships
by D.G. Clarke, November 1977 (out of print)
"Accumulation and migrant labour supply in the labour reserve economies
of Southern Africa", pp. 1-40;
"Some determinants of demand for foreign African labour in South
Africa", pp. 41-78;
"Foreign African labour and the internalisation of labour reserves in
South Africa, 1970-77", pp. 79-130.
WP 17 Bureaucrac Y and- abj d _Pgiation: The Lesotho case
by Malcolm Wallis, November 1977.
WP 18E N Compensating countries of origin for the out-migration of their people
by W.R. B6hning, December 1977 (out of print)
= also available in Serbo-Croat, in Centar Za Intrazivanje Migracia,
Zagreb (ed.): Rasprave o iqgragilama, Svezak 48 (Zagreb, 1978), pp. 7-
WP 18F M comment _ddommaqer les pay d'oriqine des migrants?
par W.R. Bdhning, dec6mbre 1977.
WP 19 The State and labour migrati in the South African political economy, with
particular respect to gold mining
by John Bardill, Roger Southall and Charles Perrings, December 1977.
wP 20 International labour supply trends and economic structure in Southern
Rhgadejsia/imbve in the 1970s
by D.G. Clarke, January 1978 (out of print).
WP 21 ReGulating international migration in the interest of the developing
countries, with particular reference to Mediterranean countries
by Klaus H. H8pfner and Maria Huber, February 1978 (out of print).
WP 22 irant labour inSwaziland: Characteristics, attitudes and policy
by Fion de Vletter, February 1978 (out of print).
WP 23 ReturnL airation from West European to Mediterranean countries
by Han Entzinger, March 1978 (out of print).
WP 24 Possibilitjs de transfer d'emplois vers les pays d' migration en rant
aqualtenAtiveaux migations internationals des travailleurs:; _csL
francais _I Elements introductifs)
par G. Tapinos, et al., mars 1978 (out of print).
WP 25 Possibilit6s de transfrt d'emplois vers les pays d'4micration en tant
qu'alternative aux migrations internationals des travaJlleurs: Le cas
francais (II: Etudes sectorielles)
par G. Tapinos, et al., avril 1978.
WP 26 Possibilites de transfer d'emplois vers les pays d'6miaration en tan&
gu'llternative aux migrations internationales des travyal1eurs j_Le cs
frnis (III_; Les pays de depart et snthse)
par G. Tapinos, et al., mai 1978.
- 54 -
WP 27 HumalA gEpi .l QtheR le __6ye pMlntfnaegaaB._ BR _S. E BUbJi
2-Eja_ ajkaj-th.M"aff i A RspUblic 2"tth.ge udln***
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, May 1978.
WP 28 The _Sl at la Lteq 2 Mman: JEcomic development, the domestic labour market
and international migration***
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, June 1978.
UP 29 iqJration and reinteqration; Transferability of the Turkish model of
return migration and self-help organizations to other Mediterranean labour-
by M. Werth and N. Yalcintas, June 1978 (out of print).
WP 30 ajture and process of labour importing: The Arabian Gulf States of Kuwait.
Bahrg~Ai,_Qtar and the United Arab Emirates***
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, August 1978.
WP 31 Migrant labour and rural homesteads: An investigation into the
socioloqical_dimensions of the migrant labour system in Swaziland
by Beth D. Rosen-Prinz and Frederick A. Prinz, September 1978.
WP 32 LR- A preliminary simulation model of the effects of declining
migration to_ Soth Africa on households in Botswant
by William M. Woods, September 1978.
WP 33G Befrgqung juqoslauischer Haushalte in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
by C. Bock and F. Tiedt, September 1978 (out of print).
HP 33E Survey.of Yugoslav households in the Federal Republic of Germany
by C. Bock and F. Tiedt, June 1979.
WP 34 Elements of a theory of international migration and compensation
by W.R. B6hning, November 1978.
WP 35 The women left behind; A study of the wives of the migrant workers -f
by Elizabeth Gordon, December 1978.
WP 36 Regfliarg. i ing ndocumenAQdo
by W.R. B6hning, April 1979.
WP 37 Reducingmira.tion dependence in Southern Africa
by C.W. Stahl and W.R. Bahning, April 1979.
WP 38 Mining employment in South Africa, 1946-2000
by N. Bromberger, May 1979.
= also available as SALDRU Working Paper No. 15 (Cape Town, Southern
Africa Labour and Development Research Unit).
WP 39 The_Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya: The key
countries of employment***
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair, Hay 1979.
*** The data collected and analysed in Working Papers Nos. 27, 28, 30 and
39, has partly been reproduced in, and forms the basis of analysis of, the ILO book
by J.S. Birks and C.A. Sinclair: international migration and development in the
Arab region (Geneva, 1979).
- 55 -
WP 40 Legal_.aspects of labour migration from Lesotho to the South African mines
by Sam Rugege, July 1979.
RP 41 guthen_ African miqant labour supplies in the past. the present and the
future,_with special Kcferene to the qold-mining industry
by C.W. Stahl, August 1979.
WP 42 An empirical study of the attitudes and perceptions of migrant workers.
the case of Lesotho
by E. Molapi Sebatane, September 1979.
WP 43 2The Candian experience jth _amnesty for liens What the United Statas__an
by David S. North, October 1979.
WP 44 A massive temporarY wPoker program for the U.S.: Solution or mirae?
by Mark Miller and David J. Yeres, November 1979.
WP 45 1 ,iL atfi,_ th iea of compensation. and the international economic order
by W.R. B8hning, December 1979.
"Some facts and figures on international economic migration", pp. 1-10;
"The idea of compensation in international migration, pp. 11-28;
"International migration and the international economic order", pp. 29-