Working Paper

Numbers vs. Rights: Trade-offs and Guest Worker Programmes

Published 1 January 2006 / By Martin Ruhs, Philip Martin

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Introduction

This paper examines the trade-off between the number and rights of low-skilled migrants in high-income countries. Countries with large numbers of low-skilled migrants offer them relatively few rights, while smaller numbers of migrants are typically associated with more rights. We discuss the number vs. rights trade-off in theory and practice as an example of competing goods, raising the question of whether numbers of migrants or rights of migrants should get higher priority. There is no easy or universal answer, but avoiding an explicit discussion of the issue - as has been done in recent guest worker debates - obscures an inevitable policy choice.

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