Measuring Migration Policy Selectivity and its Impact

Dr. Glenn Rayp, Ghent University and UNU-CRIS

Much like international trade policy, migration policy has two fundamental dimensions. The first is restrictiveness of the policy, i.e., the extent to which access to the country is given to a random immigrant. The second dimension is selectivity, i.e., the extent to which certain individuals get preferential access (difference in restrictiveness) depending on one or more characteristics. Most studies on migration policy have focused solely on the restrictiveness without considering the selectivity of migration policy, except for a few but recent contributions on the impact of skill selectivity of which the results are yet inconclusive.  Belot and Hatton (2012) find that push and pull determinants have a much larger impact on the structure of the migration flows than policy. Czaika and Parsons (2017) stress the impact of supply driven measures of selectivity, a point-based system of access in particular.

In our contribution, we discuss the construction of an index of the selectivity of migration policy that is comparable between countries and over time. Our sample includes 40 destination countries of varying income levels and covering different continents.  To construct this index, we use publicly available data on migration policy from the DEMIG database, bilateral labor agreements, and immigration investment programs.

As the selectivity of migration policy concerns multiple characteristics of the migrant, it is by definition multidimensional. We focus on three key components of selectivity: the skill level of the migrant, the level of economic resources, and nationality. For each dimension, we include information regarding differences in the (initial) access to the country, the right to stay in the country and integration. We aggregate this information, first at the level of the three dimensions of selectivity and second into an overall index.

A descriptive analysis shows that selectivity of migration policy increased over time and that there is considerable heterogeneity in the level and structure of the selectivity between destination countries. We find evidence of a trade-off between restrictiveness and selectivity of migration policy. Estimating a gravity model of migration flows taking into account multilateral resistance to migration as well as the multidimensional nature of policy selectivity for the 33 OECD countries in our sample, we find that policy selectivity influences the scale and structure of the bilateral flows in terms of nationality and economic resources. The inflow of higher skilled as well as the skill structure of the flows are however not significantly affected by migration policy selectivity, skill selectivity in particular.

About the speaker

Glenn Rayp is professor of international economics at Ghent University and senior research fellow of UNU-CRIS. His current research is centred on the impact of international trade on labour market conditions and productivity, the impact of regional integration and issues in international governance, in particular, the selectiveness of migration policy, the substance of regional governance and its impact on the achievement of the SDGs. He is a former member of the Belgian High Council of Finance and High Council on Employment. He published amongst other in World Development, Oxford Economic Papers, Labour Economics, the Journal of Consumer Analysis, the Journal of Productivity Analysis and the Journal of Business History.

(This work was co-authored with Ilse Ruyssen, Ghent University, IRES and UNU-CRIS, and Samuel Standaert, Ghent University).

Venue: 0.16/0.17

Date: 17 April 2019

Time: 13:00 - 14:00  CET