The Economics and Politics of Migrant Rights

2008 – 2014
Overview Theory Methods Partners Findings Outputs Impact News & Media
Back to Projects


This project analyses how and why high-income countries restrict the rights of migrant workers (‘migrant rights’) as part of their labour immigration policies, and discusses the implications for policy debates about regulating labour migration and protecting migrants. It engages with theoretical debates about the tensions between human rights and citizenship rights, the agency and interests of migrants and states, and the determinants and ethics of labour immigration policy. The empirical analysis of the project is global, and includes an examination of the characteristics and key features of labour immigration policies and restrictions of migrant rights in over forty high-income countries as well as in-depth analysis of policy drivers in major migrant-receiving and migrant-sending countries.

The project aims to contribute to normative and policy debates about the rights that migrants workers should have when working abroad. In particular, the project explores whether there is a case for advocating a limited set of ‘core rights’ for migrant workers, rather than the comprehensive set of rights demanded by the UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and, if so, what these core rights should be, and what implications might ensue for human rights-based approaches to international labour migration. As these research questions suggest, the project separates hard-nosed political economy analysis of the determinants of migrant rights in practice (i.e., what is current reality) from the equally important normative discussion of what rights migrant workers should have from a moral/ethical point of view.

Principal Investigator

Martin Ruhs


ESRC (COMPAS core funds)