The return of the guest worker? Temporary migration programmes in theory and practice 2006


The aims of this research project was to contribute to current debates about the potential of temporary migration programmes (TMPs) for helping to manage international labour migration in a way that is both practical and sensitive to the interests of receiving countries, migrants and their countries of origin. The research involved discussions of the economic and normative issues arising from temporary migration programmes; the policy lessons from past and existing TMPs; proposals of ‘innovative’ policy designs that are intended to help avoid past policy mistakes; and the rights that migrants admitted under a TMPs should have and how they can be best protected. A key theme explored in this project is the trade-off between financial gains from employment abroad and the restriction of rights in the host country that migrants typically experience under a TMP.

Principal Investigator

Martin Ruhs


Economic and Social Research Council
Global Commission on International Migration
International Organisation for Migration
International Labour Organisation




Labour MarketsLow Skilled MigrationPolicies




The research involved: discussion of pertinent theories in economics, politics and other relevant disciplines; comparative analyses of the major past and existing temporary migration programmes around the world; and analysis of data collected from migrants and employers who joined the UK’s recent Sector-based Scheme (SBS), a pilot programme for temporarily employing migrants in low-skilled jobs in the hospitality and food processing sectors. The empirical analysis focused on the employment of migrants in hospitality. The data collected include: 60 survey interviews and 8 separate in-depth interviews with Bangladeshi migrants working in Indian restaurants in London (half of them on SBS permits); 5 in-depth interviews with employers in Indian restaurants; and a separate mail survey of 263 employers in the UK’s hospitality sector a quarter of whom employed migrants on SBS permits.