Decent Work and Central American Immigration

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Professor Jennifer Gordon, with co-author JJ Rosenbaum, outlines the complicated relationship between decent work and Central American immigration.

Central American migration to the United States today is sometimes framed as a humanitarian tragedy, sometimes a national security threat. Rarely, however, do we discuss the lack of decent work as a central reason for migration. Yet jobs that pay a living wage, offer fair conditions and benefits, respect fundamental rights, and give workers stability so that they can plan for their families’ future are fundamental to allow people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to choose not to migrate. Decent work is also a fundamental feature of fair migration. It is the missing pillar of US policy in the region.

The relationship between work and immigration is complicated. Many who leave have jobs at home, just not good ones. Furthermore, economists have shown that more depart as opportunities begin to rise in their home countries, continuing until GDP reaches a certain level. Then migration drops and those outside begin to return. This is sometimes called the “migration hump.”

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