Multilateral Cooperation, Integration and Regimes: The Case of International Labor Mobility (Working Paper #61)

Eytan Meyers, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Abstract: What explains multilateral cooperation leading to the free movement of labor? I examine the ability of two theories of regime formation (structural and game-theoretic approaches) and of two theories of integration (supranationalism and intergovernmentalism) to account for such cooperation. Based on a review of attempts to promote cooperation at the regional and inter-regional levels, and on a more detailed analysis of two case studies (the EU and ECOWAS), I demonstrate that none of the four theories adequately explains how multilateral cooperation with regards to the free movement of labor emerges. I then offer an alternative model, which highlights bargaining between the countries of origin and those of destination. I assert that countries of origin are likely to support the free movement of labor, while countries of destination are likely to oppose it. Multilateral cooperation is achieved when the countries of destination agree to the free movement of labor, and in return, the countries of origin grant the former unrestricted entry into their markets, and/or accept their leadership status. This kind of cross-issue linkage mainly develops in regional integration schemes. I further explain the factors contributing to the durability of cooperation on the free movement of labor, and the paradoxical finding that the multilateral agreements most likely to emerge and survive are the ones that contribute the least to economic efficiency.

Working Paper #61ยป