Skip to main content

Migration and trade union rights


We study in this paper both theoretically and empirically the influence of trade union rights in origin countries on bilateral migration flows. Theoretically, trade union rights are supposed to increase the bargaining power of workers. Alternatively, it may benefit only to formal workers if these rights are not applied in the informal sector. We then propose different alternative indexes measuring trade union rights. We find that, all things being equal, more trade union rights tend to be associated with less migration of low-skill and high-skilled workers. Effects are not significant for intermediate skill level. Lastly, we show that social tensions may have the opposite effect. If trade union rights are associated with more social instability, it may increase the level of migration. It emphasizes the importance of social dialogue.


  • Aidt, T., and Z. Tzannatos (2002), “Unions and Collective Bargaining: Economic Effects in a Global Environment”, Directions in Development Series, The World Bank, Washington D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bazillier, R. (2008), “Core Labour Standards and Economic Development: Impact on Longterm per-capita Income”, World Development, 36 (1), pp. 17–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bazillier, R. and N. Sirven (2008), “Core Labour Standards and Inequalities, Is there a Social Kuznets Curve?”, Journal of Development Studies, 44 (7), pp. 913–934.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beine, M., F. Docquier, and C. Ozden (2009), “Diasporas”, World Bank Policy Research, (4984).

  • Beine, M., F. Docquier, and H. Rapoport (2001), “Brain Drain and Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence”, Journal of Development Economics, 64 (1), pp. 275–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beine, M., F. Docquier, and H. Rapoport (2003), “Brain Drain and LDC’s Growth: Winners and Losers”, The Institute for the Study of Labor, IZA DP No. 819.

  • Bhagwati, J., and W. Dellafar (1973), “The Brain Drain and Income Taxation”, World Development, 1 (1–2), pp. 94–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bhagwati, J., and Hamada (1974), “The Brain Drain, International Integration of Markets for Professionals and Unemployment: A Theoretical Analysis”, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 1, June, pp. 19–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borjas, G. J. (1994), “The Economics of Immigration”, Journal of Economic Literature, vol. XXXII, December, pp. 1667–1717.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borjas, G. J. (1999), “The Economic Analysis of Immigration”, in Handbook of Labor Economics, ed. by O. Ashenfelter, and D. Card, vol. 3, chap. 28, pp. 1697–1760, Amsterdam.

  • Borjas, G., R. Freeman, and L. Katz (1997), “How much do Immigration and Trade Affect Labor Market Outcomes”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 1, pp. 1–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Botero, J., S. Djankov, R. La Porta, and F. C. Lopez-De-Silanes (2004), “The Regulation of Labor”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119 (4), pp. 1339–1382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, D. K. (2000), “International Trade and Core Labour Standards: A Survey of the Recent Literature”, OECD Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers 43, OECD, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs.

  • Brown, D., A. Deardorff, and R. Stern (1996), “International Labour Standards and Trade: A Theoretical Analysis”, in: J. Bhagwati and R. Hudec (eds), Fair Trade and Harmonization: Prerequisities for Free Trade?, pp. 227–280. MA: Cambridge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brücker, H., and P. J. H. Schroder (2006), “International Migration with Heterogeneous Agents: Theory and Evidence”, IZA Discussion Papers 2049, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

  • Calvo, G. (1978), “Urban Employment and Wage Determination in LDC’s: Trade Unions in the Harris-Todaro Model”, International Economic Review, 19 (1), pp. 65–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • CEPII (2001), Institutional Profiles Database (IPD).

  • Defoort, C. (2008), «Tendance de long terme des migrations internationales, analyse a partir des 6 principaux pays receveurs», Population, 63 (2), pp. 317–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Docquier, F., A. Marfouk, and B. L. Lowell (2007), “A Gender Assessment of the Brain Drain”, dataset 1990–2000 with gender breakdown (Rel. 2.1).

  • El Yaman, O., M. Kugler, and H. Rapoport (2007), «Migrations et investissements directs étrangers dans l’espace européen», Revue Economique, (58 2007/3), pp. 725–733.

  • Fields, G. (1975), “Rural-Urban Migration, Urban Unemployment and Underemployment and Job Search Activity in LDC’s”, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 2, pp. 165–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Freedom House (2005), “Annual Survey of Freedom Country Score”,

  • Ghai, D. (2003), “Decent Work: Concepts and Indicators”, International Labour Review, 142 (2), pp. 121–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, K. S., and M. Ward (1997), “A Re-Examination of Democracy and Autocracy in Modern Politics”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 41 (3), pp. 361–383.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gleditsch, K. S. (2003), “Modified Polity P4 and P4D Data”, Version 1.0. URL:

  • Granger, C. (2005), «Normes de travail fondamentales et échanges Sud-Nord», Economie Internationale, 101, pp. 47–62.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, J. (1982), “The Substitutability of Natives and Immigrants in Production”, Review of Economics and Statistics, 54 (4), pp. 596–603.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gupta, M. R. (1993), “Rural-Urban Migration, Informal Sector, and Development Policies”, Journal of Development Economics 41 (1).

  • Harris, J. R., and M. P. Todaro (1970), “Migration, Unemployment and Development: A Two Sector Analysis”, American Economic Review, 60, pp. 126–142.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, A., and E. Leamer (1997), “Labor Markets in Developing Countries: An Agenda for Research”, Journal of Labor Economics, 15 (3), pp. 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heckman, J. J. (1979), “Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error”, Econometrica, 47 (1), pp. 53–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hicks, J. R. (1932), The Theory of Wages, London.

  • Jose, A. (2002), Organized Labour in the 21st century. Geneva.

  • Kucera, D. (2002), “Core Labour Standards and Foreign Direct Investment”, International Labour Review, 141 (1–2).

  • Kucera, D. (2004), “Measuring Trade Union Rights: A Country-Level Indicator Constructed from Coding Textual Sources”, Policy Integration Department Working Paper, International Labour Organization, 50, 2004.

  • Kucera, D., and R. Galli (2004), “Labor Standards and Informal Employment in Latin America”, World Development, 32 (5), pp. 809–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Levhari, D., and O. Stark (1982), “On Migration and Risk in Less Developed Countries”, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 31.

  • Lindbeck, A., and D. J. Snower (2001), “Insiders versus Outsiders”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15 (1), pp. 165–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Linders, G.-J. M., and H. L. de Groot (2006), “Estimation of the Gravity Equation in the Presence of Zero Flows”, Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 06-072/3, Tinbergen Institute.

  • Màrquez, G., and C. Pagès (1998), “Ties that Bind: Employment Protection and Labor Market Outcomes in Latin America”, Inter-American Development Bank working paper, R-427. Washington, DC: IADB.

  • Maskus, K. (1997), “Should Core Labor Standards be Imposed Through International Trade Policy?”, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 1817.

  • Mountford, A. (1997), “Can a Brain Drain be Good for Growth in the Source Economy?” Journal of Development Economics, 53 (2), pp. 287–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • OECD (1996), Trade, Employement and Labour Standards: A Study of Core Worker’s Right and International Trade, Paris.

  • OECD (2000), International Trade and Core Labour Standards, Paris.

  • OECD (2008), International Migration Outlook 2008, Paris.

  • Quibria, M. G. (1988), “Migration, Trade Unions, and the Informal Sector: A Note on Calvo”, International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, 29 (3), pp. 557–563, August.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saint-Paul, G. (2002), “The Political Economy of Employment Protection”, Journal of Political Economy, 110 (3), pp. 672–701. 6, 21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schiff, M. (1999), “Trade, Migration and Welfare: The Impact of Social Capital”, Policy Research Working Paper WPS 2044, World Bank.

  • Schiff, M. (2002), “Love Thy Neighbor: Trade, Migration, and Social Capital”, European Journal of Political Economy, 18, pp. 87–107.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, A., and A. Zammit (2000), “The Global Labour Standards Controversy: Critical Issues for Developing Countries”, Geneva, Switzerland: South centre.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stark, O. (1991), The Migration of Labour, Oxford.

  • Stark, O., C. Helmenstein, and A. Prskawetz (1997), “A Brain Gain with a Brain Drain”, Economics Letters, 55 (2), pp. 227–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stark, O., and J. E. Taylor (1991), “Relative Deprivation and Migration”, Policy Research Working Paper WPS 656, World Bank.

  • Stark, O., and S. Yitzhaki (1988), “Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation”, Journal of Population Economics, 1.

  • Todaro, M. P. (1969), “A Model of Labor Migration and Urban Unemployment in Less Developed Countries”, American Economic Review, 59.

  • Wooldridge, J. (2002), Econometric Analysis of Cross-Section and Panel Data. MIT Press, Cambridge.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thierry Baudassé.

Additional information

We would like to thank Tobias Müller, Sivio Tai and participants at the SSES annual meeting. All remaining errors are obviously ours.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Baudassé, T., Bazillier, R. Migration and trade union rights. Swiss J Economics Statistics 146, 677–707 (2010).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: