The regulation challenge
The lack of co-operation between countries of origin, transit and destination raises the challenge of regulating migration flows, especially in the current context of global interdependence. Unlike trade and capital flows, migration policies tend in reality to be unilateral and restrictive:
- • While the World Trade Organization (WTO) oversees trade negotiations, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with the Global Financial Board (GFB), manages capital mobility, there is no international organisation regulating migration;
- • While free trade applies to trade and capital flows, protectionism dominates migration policy.
The purpose of this book is to analyse the reasons for these differences, by focusing on the asymmetry of benefits between high and low-income countries. It shows that the liberalisation of migration flows benefits workers in countries where skill levels are low, by improving their living conditions in other countries. But this does not work the other way around, as workers from high-wage countries have little interest in moving to low-wage countries. As a result, no organised lobby group is willing to defend the access of workers to foreign labour markets. Negotiations on migration therefore lack an overarching goal, namely the free movement of people.
But this analysis may be more apparent than real. Non-cooperative migration policies are indeed costly, not only for migrants and their countries of origin but also for the countries of destination. In fact, restrictive immigration policies come with financial and human costs. But costly does not mean effective. Strict border controls tend to prevent comings and goings between countries of origin and destination, and translate into high levels of irregular immigration.