Handbook on Migration and Social Policy
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Handbook on Migration and Social Policy

Edited by Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic

In this detailed Handbook, an interdisciplinary team of scholars explores the consequences of migration for the social policies of rich welfare states. They test conflicting claims as to the positive and negative effects of different types of migration against the experience of countries in Europe, North America, Australasia, the Middle East and South Asia. The chapters assess arguments as to migration’s impact on the financial, social and political stability of social programs. The volume includes comprehensive reviews of existing scholarship as well as state of the art original empirical analysis.
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Chapter 23: Theorizing labor immigration policies: openness, skills and rights

Martin Ruhs


This chapter develops a basic conceptual framework for the analysis of labor immigration policies in high-income countries. My analytical starting point is that the design of a labor immigration policy requires policy decisions on three fundamental issues: how to regulate openness, that is, the number of migrants to be admitted (e.g. through quotas); how to select migrants (e.g. by skill); and what rights to grant migrants after admission (e.g. temporary or permanent residence; access to the labor market and welfare state). The first two decisions on ‘openness’ and ‘selection’ regulate the admission of migrant workers, while the third decision – on ‘rights’ – relates to the treatment of migrants after admission. The inclusion of the rights of migrant workers (henceforth ‘migrant rights’) as an instrument of labor immigration policy is, in my view, of fundamental importance to the analysis of how nation states regulate labor immigration. This is because immigration challenges nation states by raising questions about both admission and access to citizenship rights. They are interrelated policy challenges that nation states address simultaneously. Consequently, regulations of the admission and rights of migrant workers cannot be studied in isolation from each other, in terms of both positive and normative analysis. To understand why, when and how countries restrict the admission of migrant workers, and to explore what admission policies we should advocate, we need to consider how particular admission policies are related to restrictions of migrants’ rights after admission. Conversely, restrictions of migrant rights cannot be understood without paying attention to admission policies.

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