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Lant Pritchett is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and professor of the practice of international development at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he taught from 2000 to 2004 and from 2007 onward. Before rejoining the Kennedy School in 2007, he was lead socio-economist in the social development group of the South Asia region of the World Bank. He occupied various other positions at the World Bank during his tenure there, beginning in 1988. Pritchett was a team member on a number of prominent World Bank publications including Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reforms (2005); Making Services Work for Poor People (World Development Report 2004); Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn't and Why (with David Dollar, 1998); and Infrastructure for Development (World Development Report 1994). He has published two books with Center for Global Development, Let Their People Come (2006) and The Rebirth of Education (2013). Pritchett has published over a hundred articles and papers (with more than 25 co-authors) on a wide range of topics, including state capability, labor mobility, and education, among many others. Originally from Idaho, Pritchett is the father of three children and now lives in an empty nest with his wife of 31 years.
One way to help solve the migration policy gridlock in the U.S. and other rich countries is to expand legal channels for poor people from developing countries to work temporarily at low skill jobs, according to a new book from CGD.
"The gains to people in poor countries from labor mobility are enormous compared to everything else on the development agenda," says Lant Pritchett, the author of the new book, Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility.
Pritchett cites estimates that if rich countries were to permit a mere 3 percent increase in the size of their labor force by easing restrictions on labor mobility, the benefits to citizens of poor countries would be $305 billion a year--almost twice the combined annual benefits of full trade liberalization ($86 billion); foreign aid ($70 billion) and debt relief (about $3 billion in annual debt service savings).
"Both rich and poor countries benefit when rich economies admit low-skilled workers," asserts Pritchett. In Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, foreigners working as housekeepers and nannies account for 7 percent of the labor force (compared to only 0.3 percent in the U.S.). These temporary household workers make it possible for more highly skilled women to work outside the home, raising national income by between 1.3 and 3.3 percent, and increasing tax revenues from the additional employment.
Globally, because of such benefits, a 3 percent increase in rich country labor forces through legal, temporary labor would result in a net annual gain of $56 billion to current rich country residents, on top of the $305 billion annual direct gain to migrant workers themselves and their families.
"Everybody knows that trade, aid and debt relief are development issues," says CGD president Nancy Birdsall. "Labor mobility is like the 800-pound gorilla in the room that nobody wants to discuss. Lant's book will change that."
The book is the latest publication from CGD's Migration and Development initiative, which aims to put migration at the center of the development policy agenda, and to bring solid evidence about the development impact of labor mobility to the rich world migration policy debate.
"Much of the research on migration and development has focused on remittances but most of the impact on sending countries lies elsewhere and is poorly understood," says CGD research fellow Michael Clemens, who coordinates the initiative. Clemens recently published a new dataset on Health Professional Emigration from Africa, as part of his study of the impact of the exodus of sub-Saharan nurses and doctors on health in the region.
A previous CGD book on migration, Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World, by Devesh Kapur and John McHale, examined the impact of skilled migration from developing countries and suggested ways to make such movements more supportive of development.
The temporary legal worker program that Pritchett proposes would focus on temporary, low-skilled labor and would separate labor mobility for such workers from the debate over migration and citizenship. It has two particularly innovative components:
Labor-sending countries take responsibility for ensuring that temporary workers actually return home.
Rich countries take responsibility for certifying labor shortages in specific industries.
Pritchett argues that these steps would help to address popular anxieties about migration, for example, that foreign workers will strain government budgets and steal jobs.
A key element in his proposed package is to ensure that temporary workers really return home when their stay is over. One way to do this, he says, is to reduce the sending country's future quota by one worker for each worker who fails to return home as scheduled. Pritchett discusses several approaches, including the pros and cons of establishing and regulating commercial labor brokers.
Pritchett suggests that rich countries enter into bilateral agreements with developing countries to govern temporary labor. He predicts that agreements between just two countries, or between small groups of countries, will be more politically acceptable than an overall agreement through a large multilateral organization such as the World Trade Organization. "For many reasons--security, historical links, concerns about culture clash--host countries will be more willing to engage in bilateral agreements with selected sending countries," he says.
To enhance the development impact of temporary workers on their countries of origin, Pritchett suggests a wide range of measures, including enabling the sending country to collect taxes and public pension contributions and lowering the cost of sending remittances.
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This controversial book argues that irresistible demographic forces for greater international labor mobility are being checked by immovable anti-immigration ideas of rich-country citizens. Pritchett proposes breaking the gridlock through policies that support development while also being politically acceptable in rich countries. These include greater use of temporary worker permits, permit rationing, reliance on bilateral rather than multilateral agreements, and protection of migrants' fundamental human rights.
The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seek to ensure that all children complete primary school by 2015. But school completion rates don't tell us how much--or how little--the kids actually learn. This new working paper co-authored by CGD non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett shows that even in countries that meet the primary school completion goal, most students fall short of minimum competency in reading, writing and arithmetic. The answer, the authors argue, is a Millennium Learning Goal that measures how much students actually know. Learn more
The welfare of the poor turns in large measure not only on technocratic development "policies", but the effective delivery of key public services, core elements of which require thousands of face-to-face discretionary transactions ("practices") by service providers. This paper presents eight current proposals for improving service delivery, on the basis of a principal-agent model of incentives that explores how these various proposals change flows of resources, information, decision-making, delivery mechanisms, and accountability.
Poverty reduction is now, and quite properly should remain, the primary objective of the World Bank. But, when the World Bank dreams of a world free of poverty—what should it be dreaming? I argue in this essay that the dream should be a bold one, that treats citizens of all nations equally in defining poverty, and that sets a high standard for what eliminating poverty will mean for human well-being.