Temporary Foreign Workers Pogrammes: Policies, Adverse Consequences, and the Need to Make Them Work (Working Paper #56)

Martin Ruhs, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and University of Cambridge – UK

Abstract: This paper comparatively discusses the policies and adverse consequences of six major temporary foreign worker programmes (TFWPs) in five different countries (Germany, Kuwait, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States). I find that TFWPs have been quite different in design, but rather similar in their adverse consequences. The latter include: (i) the emergence of “immigrant sectors” in the host economy; (ii) the vulnerability of migrant workers toward various forms of exploitation in recruitment and employment; (iii) the tendency of TFWPs to become longer in duration and bigger in size than initially envisaged; (iv) native workers’ opposition against the introduction or expansion of a TFWP; and (v) the emergence of illegal foreign workers who, together with native employers, circumvent the programme. Given that most countries lack viable alternative to TFWPs, I argue that there is an urgent need to develop new types of TFWPs that avoid and learn from the past policy mistakes identified in this paper. The paper concludes with a proposal of seven general policy principles for making TFWPs work.

Working Paper #56»