Shing-Yi Wang, The Wharton School Recruiting International Migrant Labor

Full Project Title

Recruiting International Migrant Labor: Theory and Evidence

Principal Investigator

Shing-Yi Wang
Business Economics and Public Policy, The Wharton School

Project Abstract

International migration offers potentially large gains in income for the global poor. Global labor markets, including guest worker programs, may offer individuals better labor market opportunities in other countries. In particular, the small and relatively affluent countries in the Gulf employ a large number of migrants relative to their population. However, despite its promise as a mechanism for reducing poverty in developing countries and reducing global inequality, little is known about the distribution of the welfare gains from international migration, particularly in contexts with extensive labor market intermediation. Our project proposes several strategies for examining the distribution of gains in the context of workers from India seeking work opportunities in the United Arab Emirates. In particular, we focus on the how the recruitment process for workers and the labor supply chain affects the distribution of gains across workers, firms and labor brokers.

We propose a novel data collection effort combined with a field experiment and an audit study. The field experiment will randomize job offers among a pool of workers who UAE construction firms screen as qualified. By studying and surveying these groups, we are able to quantify the impact of migration on wages, non-wage amenities and other measures of well-being, and to provide insight into the financial relationship between workers and labor brokers. In addition to the field experiment, we propose to conduct an audit study at the stage where workers first connect with the labor brokers. This will allow us to understand how the initial screening and contract terms are determined during the labor recruitment process.