This opinion piece was written by Michael Clemens, co-director of migration, displacement and humanitarian policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, and Kate Gough, research assistant working on migration and forced displacement at the Center for Global Development.
Previous moves, like the EU Trust Fund for Africa or France’s decision to open a migrant processing centre in Niger, have looked to deter migrants from leaving their homes to begin with. Such efforts have come alongside other efforts aimed within Europe, such as an outsized focus on returns and immigration enforcement throughout the Global Compact for Migration process.
We’re not convinced these efforts will, as designed and on their own, actually work to deter migration. Evidence points to the contrary, at the very least when such policies are implemented unilaterally and without different, complementary efforts.
But Europe does recognise that it’s facing a new migration reality, and its policy and programmatic decisions will need to adapt and respond. Destination and origin countries alike can prioritise programs and partnerships that harness the large potential benefits and drive toward mutual “wins” across the board — rendering positive outcomes for the destination and origin countries, and migrants themselves.
Development efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa have reached a huge milestone — child mortality has been plummeting for the past 30 years. The anticipated entry of 800 million new labor force participants in the region by 2050 is proof of this.
“Policymakers can decide whether migration becomes a boon or a burden”
This is great news. But it comes with a challenge that Europe is already starting to face — more migration. These pressures don’t have to be a problem for Europe, and emigration doesn’t have to be a problem for these origin countries.
The impact of migration is ultimately a policy decision — and policymakers in Europe and beyond can decide whether migration becomes a boon or a burden.
The first idea we want to see piloted is a Global Skill Partnership.
A Global Skill Partnership is a bilateral agreement in which a migrant destination country gets directly involved in creating human capital among potential migrants in a country of origin — before they migrate. Destination-country employers and governments provide technology and finance for vocational training of potential migrants, in exchange for access and placement at the destination. This is paired with the training of other workers who will remain in the origin country.
Agreements of this kind ensure destination countries receive migrants with the skills to integrate quickly and contribute maximally. The destination country, potentially in partnership with a private sector business, shapes what skillsets and qualifications migrants need to be complementary to the existing workforce.
Language and cultural adaptation can be the more challenging aspects of integration, and providing these soft skills up front can help migrants integrate and contribute more quickly
More broadly, training migrants in the country of origin is a significant cost-saving to the destination country, as the funding required is far less than it is when training in the destination country.
Importantly, Global Skill Partnerships ensure that origin countries receive a stronger human capital base without a net drain of fiscal or human resources.
The training institutions established and financed by the destination country train both migrants and non-migrants. A portion of the trainees will elect to stay in their origin communities, and will enter the local labor markets with advanced skills, expertise, and new technology that can be transferred to colleagues.
This capacity building at the local level marks a technology transfer to the origin country that can spur development. Coupled with the general benefits of migration — such as increased flows of remittances, innovation and intellectual transfer, and more — origin countries stand to gain a lot in development terms.
And Global Skill Partnerships ensure migrants and their families can safely pursue international opportunities if they wish. Those who migrate typically earn several times more than those who do not, because their economic productivity is vastly greater at the destination than at the origin.
Aspects of the Global Skill Partnership approach have been tested in numerous settings, but new pilot programs are needed to adapt the model to directly address rising migration pressures, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.
Pilot programs will also need to test out and gauge precisely what the internal mechanics of such a program will look like, not only as a bilateral agreement, but for the individual countries themselves — different ministries within a country will need to work together to create the environment for the bilateral agreement to be implemented.
Global Skill Partnerships can quickly become privately profitable and self-sustaining, with no ongoing cost to taxpayers either in the country of destination or origin. But they require initial cooperation and support from policymakers on both sides. This mutual support must arise from the prospect of mutual benefits.
There is going to be a lot more migration in the future. Given the coming demographic realities, the local markets in origin countries will simply be unable to absorb all these new workers. This coincides with a period when the labour markets in European countries will simultaneously face an ageing-out of workers, leaving critical skills gaps.
Policymakers have an opportunity to shape how that migration happens. Committing to trying out policy innovations is a promising first step to maximise benefits. — Michael Clemens and Kate Gough
(Picture credit: Flickr/CIFOR)