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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

The benefits of temporary migration

Research led by a Southampton Professor of Economics was one of the first to show that, contrary to popular belief, temporary migration can have many benefits for the emigrants’ home countries. Work by Professor Jackline Wahba has revealed that in fact there are multiple positive effects on the country of origin as migrants return with more skills, money to invest and are more likely to set up their own business or become self-employed when they return.

Research Challenge

It is a concern that the emigration of skilled workers has a detrimental effect on their home countries with these developing countries investing scarce resources in financing the education of their people, only for them to emigrate leaving their countries under-skilled and poor. But by studying the labour market experiences of return Egyptians who migrated to rich Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Jackline was able to show that temporary migration could in fact be beneficial to developing countries.

Context

With the results that temporary emigration can be beneficial to home countries, it is important that labour sending developing countries maximise these benefits by putting policies in place to attract remittances and investment, strengthen their relationships with their migrant communities so that these migrants can become more involved in the economic life of their home country.

Our solution

Studying return Egyptians migrants, Jackline was able to demonstrate that uneducated people returning to their home countries have a markedly positive impact on the economy. She showed that as well as increasing investment in the country by 15 per cent, they also returned with savings allowing them to set up their own businesses which would not have been possible if they hadn’t migrated. She found that they used the knowledge and experience they gained abroad to set up enterprises back home, enterprises that created jobs for local people with greater emphasis on workers’ rights such as sick leave and holiday pay. Her work also revealed that return migrants enjoy a wage premium when they came home, often earning up to 38 per cent more than non-migrants. All of this research raised awareness among policy makers of the need to support would-be entrepreneurs.

What was the impact?

This research has led to a reassessment of migration policies on a national and international level and has influenced the policy of several international organisations. The World Bank drew on this research to support the Egyptian Government in its negotiations with the EU on temporary labour migration; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) cited Jackline’s work as a key reason to encourage temporary migration and consulted with her in developing policies on how countries can best maximise the benefits of their return migrants and the investment and entrepreneurism they bring with them; and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) based their policy recommendations on her research when they suggested the Egyptian government set up online services and offer tax break to return migrants.

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