Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

Circular Temporary Labour Migration: Reassessing Established Public Policies

Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

Circular Temporary Labour Migration: Reassessing Established Public Policies

Article excerpt

Ricard Zapata-Barrero 1 and Rocío Faúndez García 2 and Elena Sánchez-Montijano 1, 3

Recommended by Bridget Freisthler

1, GRITIM-UPF (Interdisciplinary Research Group on Immigration), Department of Political and Social Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 08005 Barcelona, Spain 2, Political Science and International Relations Department, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, 8340575 Santiago, Chile 3, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), 08001 Barcelona, Spain

Received 13 November 2011; Revised 16 March 2012; Accepted 2 May 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

In the search for new ways to channel human mobility, Circular Temporary Labour Migration (CTLM) has recently become a basic course of action promoted by relevant economic and political agents. Although the phenomenon of Temporary Labour Migration (TLM) originally emerged after the Second World War, a new type is now appearing: circular labour migration. Indeed, in the 1940s and 1950s, many workers from developing countries emigrated to the United States and Europe for temporary periods, in response to the needs for national reconstruction and the lack of low-skilled workers. However, the beginning of the twenty-first century saw a new boom in TLM programmes that share some traits with previous ones (economic sectors, skills level), but also have their own distinctive features. First, these new programmes are often managed by business actors who are directly involved in hiring. Second, and more importantly, there has been a tendency towards creating workers' programmes that are circular in nature, involving the same individuals year after year, with an annual return that is assumed rather than implied .

International organizations have pointed out the potential benefits of this new system of mobility. These virtues are said to be a result of the link between three development processes: the country of origin, the receiving country, and the temporary workers. It is precisely because of this "triple win" effect that different institutions promote it. Some examples of this include the EU pilot circular migration and mobility partnerships, as defined by the 2839th Council of General Affairs and External Relations, and the Commission Communication on Circular Migration and Mobility Partnerships between the European Union and Third Countries [ 1], which underlines the importance of closer cooperation with third countries in managing migration flows.

Based on a specific empirical case study of a CTLM project, organized by the largest agricultural business association in Catalonia (Spain), Unió de Pagesos , 1 we closely examine the expected "triple win" result. This programme (which we refer to as "UPP"-- Unió de Pagesos Programe ) has been highlighted by several international organizations (OECD, EU, IOM) as an innovative way of regulating the flow of low-skilled labour migrants and preventing irregular migration towards Europe. However, the aspect we will highlight in this analysis is the project's unexpected impact on migrant rights, due to the lack of recognition of a new empirical migrant category: the circular labour migrant . This migrant differs from the traditional temporary worker in one fundamental respect: the same individual travels back and forth between countries year after year for a substantial period of time, during which he/she remains in what could be called a permanently temporary condition . This particular status is still theoretically unnamed, and lacks political and legal recognition by public institutions.

In this framework, we argue that to date there have been two historical phases of circular labour migration: one of total deregulation of migrant labour markets, and another of partial regulation carried out by private actors with public institutional support. …

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