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Photo: Rahul Kashya

The elusive triple win: Addressing temporary labour migration dilemmas through fair representation

Society and economy

By Rainer Bauböck, Professor, Global Governance Program, European University Institute.

20 Apr 2023
13:45 - 15:00
Room 303, Annedalseminariet, Seminariegatan 1A

Rainer Bauböck, Professor, Global Governance Program, European University Institute.
Centre on Global Migration (CGM) and Peace and Development Research Group at the School of Global Studies


Temporary Labour Migration Programmes (TLMPs) are controversial because they are caught in a dilemma between global and domestic justice. From a global justice perspective, TLMPs expand opportunities for workers in poor countries to access labour markets of rich countries and they improve the situation of origin countries through remittances. From a domestic justice perspective, TLMPs violate principles of domestic equality because they always afford migrant workers more restricted rights than those enjoyed by citizens and long-term residents of the host country. Although this dilemma cannot be fully resolved, we argue that TLMPs can be morally justified and recommended if they are characterised by ‘fair representation’ in policy design and implementation and also meet certain democratic legitimacy conditions. TLMPs can be justified if they provide triple benefits for destination and origin countries as well as for migrants themselves, yet the relevant benefits can only be achieved cooperatively through transnational governance in which each of the three groups of actors is fairly represented. This conclusion is supported by our interpretation of the democratic principle of including all affected interests. Under such conditions, some rights of temporary migrant workers in host countries can be regarded as a legitimate outcome of negotiations, while others need to be fixed in advance under a democratic principle of equal protection of all subjected to the laws. Democratic legitimacy also requires that migrants enjoy protection and participation rights as citizens of their countries of origin as well as local citizenship in their countries of residence.