Circular Migration and Development: Trends, Policy Routes, and Ways Forward
This policy brief provides a background to the existing body of knowledge surrounding the circular migration phenomenon. Authors synthesize a wide array of government and nongovernmental research, country-specific policy examples, and various circular migration schemes to identify: research gaps that preclude adequate understanding of the behavior of circular migrants and their impact on origin and destination countries; common policy routes that seek to encourage circular migration and their outcomes; “best-practices” from innovative circular migration policies and the reasons for their success in encouraging development and compliance within a particular socioeconomic and political context; and critical policy recommendations and challenges for designing and implementing a framework for circular migration that benefits sending countries, destination countries, and migrants alike.
The report’s analysis of the “usual path” taken by countries to foster circularity—efforts by sending countries to maintain ties with their diaspora and lure back “high flying individuals,” and attempts by receiving countries to discourage the social and economic integration of migrant workers and enforce stringent return provisions—suggest that conventional policies fall short of realizing the development potential of circular migration because they fail to meet the three key success indicators identified in this paper: an investment-friendly socioeconomic climate in the country of origin, the voluntary return of expatriates, and adequate financial and human capital accumulation by migrants.
The authors push policymakers to consider employment arrangements that offer greater flexibility and skill development opportunities for temporary workers, in addition to policies that foster transnational entrepreneurship by removing disincentives to circularity. They caution, however, that initiatives will likely fail to fulfill their promise on paper in the absence of careful consideration of migrants’ motivations, political support from both sending and receiving countries, active participation by the private sector, and an evaluation system that accurately captures circular migration patterns.